The training required for jazz dancers shares a greater resemblance to the training undergone by ballet dancers than hip-hop dancers in terms of style, focus, and movement. Whereas hip-hop dance focuses more on loose movements as well as freestyle dancing and a wide range of movements, jazz – like ballet – is more concerned with preserving classic movements and less on fusing with moves from other dance genres.
The first thing you should hone is your flexibility. Everything else is a second priority. Without sufficient flexibility, you’ll be unable to perform even the most basic of jazz moves and routines.
Unfortunately, gaining or increasing flexibility is something easier said than done. With strength training, you’ll rarely experience discomfort. Exhaustion is normal, but your muscles won’t ache as much. It’s different with flexibility training. Ill-used muscles will have to be stretched completely and almost mercilessly until you can make full use of every muscle and joint in your body. It will be very uncomfortable at the start, but constant practice will soon make your muscles used to being stretched and adopting new forms and positions.
With flexibility training, you’ll be able to bend your back at the greatest possible angles. You’ll be able to perform different types of leg splits (and this goes for both female and male jazz dancers).
Splits are, in fact, one of the most common trouble areas of beginner-level jazz dancers. One exercise you can do at home to improve your lower body flexibility is by lying on your back with your posterior and legs flat against the wall. Start by placing your legs up against the wall, with your body forming an L shape. Now, slowly let your legs fall wide open. Remain there as long as you can and your legs will gradually fall open wider and wider. If you can sleep while maintaining that position, go ahead! When you wake up, your muscles will be definitely sore but you’ll also find the exercise easier the next time around.
In many ways, the art of jazz dance is like expressing drama. Whereas hip-hop dance is often described as fun and creative, ballet as soft and complex, jazz is more often dramatic and the songs often match it. Consider listening to the song “All That Jazz” and you’ll understand how drama plays into dance.
That’s why aspiring jazz dancers have to be very comfortable with being dramatic. Jazz moves could be seductive, mournful, and bitter – whatever the emotion is, you have to express them dramatically or passionately without giving up the certain kind of classy style that always comes with jazz performances.