How Are Jazz & Ballet Similar?

Written by natalie andrews
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How Are Jazz & Ballet Similar?
Modern ballet incorporates upbeat and rhythmic jazz music. (Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Ballet and jazz, when executed by skilful dancers, may seem worlds apart. Ballet originated during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century, while jazz emerged during the 1950s. Ballet boasts French and Italian roots, whereas jazz got its foundation from Caribbean traditional dance. Despite these differences though, ballet and jazz are performed with similar techniques.

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Ballet History

The word ballet is French in origin, meaning "to dance." It was developed as a form to interpret fencing in Italian courts and was later developed by the French during the time of Louix XIV. This dance form spread from Italy to France, Denmark and Russia.

Jazz History

Before the 1950s, jazz referred to the dancing style from African cultures imported by slaves. After World War II, tap dancing and jazz became synonymous because tap dancing was often set to jazz music. Over time, jazz dance became an amalgamation of other dance styles, such as boogie, swing, Charleston, jitterbug, hip-hop and lyrical dance.

Jazz and Ballet Similarities

The main similarity between jazz and ballet lies in the technique. Even though jazz dancers move freely -- as opposed to ballet dancers who consciously control movement -- it follows some of the basic forms originating from ballet. Jazz moves like pirouette, toe rise and straddle split leap came from ballet. Ballet is likewise influenced by jazz, as seen in contemporary ballet with its greater range of movement and fluidity.

Another similarity of both dance styles is the need for balance. Ballet dancers often dance on their toes, stretched or arched. Jazz dancers, on the other hand, often execute great kicks, leaps and fast turns. Executing these steps require balance and form, as each move can be awkward without the proper angles of the body.

Jazz Ballet

Over the years, ballet has influenced jazz and vice versa. A new dancing style known as "jazz ballet" is a combination of precise ballet moves incorporated with the modern beat of jazz. It combines the stiff techniques used in ballet with the fluidity of movement in jazz, making this genre a more modern approach to both styles.

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