Dance Advice

Out now: ‘The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance’

From 'The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance'.
From 'The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance'.

A new guide to jazz dance for the emerging practitioner came out this November, published by Crowood Press. The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance is written by Dollie Henry and Paul Jenkins. It provides insights into the histories of jazz dance, the place of improvisation in jazz choreography, dance and music, and will appeal to teachers and students alike. 

Dollie Henry in the studio.
Dollie Henry in the studio.

Henry is a UK-based performer, educator, choreographer and theatre director and lectures in dance at Trinity Laban. The purpose of the book, says Henry, is to “place the jazz dance journey and lineage in context, and to communicate the practical and creative elements authenticated by jazz dance innovators of the past, which has led to the development and presentation of the jazz dance form of today.”

The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance traces the history of jazz dance to its origins in the traditions of African music and dance brought to America via slave trade. It considers the influences of ballet and other European influences such as the waltz and jig, which came to  America through immigration. This concept of the heritage of jazz is very effectively illustrated with as a tree demonstrating the many roots of jazz dance and its many branches today. Jenkins is a jazz musician who specialises in creating scores for music theatre and contributes an excellent chapter on the evolution of jazz music. 

Dollie Henry.
Dollie Henry.

After tracing these histories, the book goes on to consider modern jazz dance. With brief overviews of the major modern jazz choreographers such as Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, it includes chapters and sections on fundamentals of practice such as plié, breath. There is a suggested Jazz Dance Exercise Program for the modern-day jazz dancer, and Keynotes for Jazz Dance Teachers — which has an emphasis on developing and investing in skills in improvisation — as the force through which the work remains fresh. The chapter on Creating Dance for Jazz Theatre includes a “creative dance cake” which is a pie chart featuring the elements that mix together to create a new jazz work. 

Henry is passionate about the history and future of jazz dance. “It is through the individual creative and artistic expression,” she says, “that we see the further development of the jazz dance art form as it moves in rhythm to the creative heartbeat of its practitioners and performers.”

You can preview and purchase The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance at Crowood Press or at

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

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