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Jazz Dance Choreography: Tips and Tricks

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Embarking on the task of creating a successful jazz dance choreography can seem daunting at first. With countless options for music, movements, and formations, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, with careful planning, attention to detail, and a little creativity, you can design a routine that wows audiences and showcases your dancers’ skills. In this article, we’ll provide tips and tricks for every stage of the choreography process, from preparation to teaching to refining the final product. So, put on your dancing shoes and let’s get started!

What is Jazz Dance?

Jazz dance is a dance form that originated in America in the early 20th century. It is a genre of dance that emphasizes rhythm, syncopation, and improvisation. Jazz dance is one of the most popular dance styles and is often performed on stage, in movies, and on television.

History of Jazz Dance: Jazz dance has evolved over time, and its roots can be traced back to African American vernacular dance styles. These styles were brought to America by slaves and were heavily influenced by European and American classical dance forms. Jazz dance became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and it was performed in nightclubs, speakeasies, and vaudeville shows.

5 Essential Jazz Dance Techniques: Jazz dance incorporates a range of techniques including isolations, turns, kicks, leaps, and jazz walks. These techniques require a lot of practice and coordination, and they help to create the unique style of jazz dance.

10 Famous Jazz Dancers: There have been many famous jazz dancers throughout history, including Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, and Michael Jackson. These dancers have all made significant contributions to the development of jazz dance and have helped to popularize the style around the world.

Influence of Jazz Music on Jazz Dance: Jazz dance is closely associated with jazz music, and the two art forms share a deep connection. Jazz music provides the rhythm and energy for jazz dance, and dancers often use the music as inspiration for their movements.

How to Improvise in Jazz Dance Style: Jazz dance is known for its improvisational nature, and dancers often improvise movements in response to the music. Improvisation requires a lot of skill and practice, but it can lead to some of the most memorable and exciting moments in jazz dance.

Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Dance: If you’re new to jazz dance, there are a few things you should know before you get started. For example, it’s important to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and to listen carefully to the music. It’s also helpful to start with some basic jazz dance exercises, such as jazz walks and isolations.

Role of Jazz Dance in Contemporary Performances: Jazz dance continues to play an important role in contemporary performances, and it is often used in musical theater, films, and television shows. Contemporary jazz dance combines elements of traditional jazz dance with other styles, such as hip-hop and contemporary dance.

Jazz Dance vs Other Dance Styles: Jazz dance is often compared to other dance styles, such as ballet, contemporary dance, and hip-hop. While these styles share some similarities, they each have their own unique characteristics and techniques.

Significance of Costume and Fashion in Jazz Dance: Costumes and fashion play an important role in jazz dance, and they can help to enhance the performance and create a specific mood or atmosphere. Jazz dance costumes often feature bold colors, sequins, and other eye-catching details, and they are designed to help the dancers stand out on stage.

Preparing for Choreography

Preparing For Choreography
As you begin to plan your jazz dance routine, it’s important to lay the foundation for success. Preparing for choreography takes careful consideration and a few key steps to ensure you create a routine that showcases your dancers’ strengths and abilities. Before diving in, take some time to gather inspiration, select the right music, and think about the skill level of your dancers. Consider the following tips and tricks to help you set yourself, and your jazz dance team, up for success. To learn more about the history of jazz dance and its evolution, click here.

Gather Inspiration

When it comes to choreographing a successful jazz dance routine, the first step is to gather inspiration. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so it’s important to keep an open mind and immerse yourself in the world of jazz dance. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Watch performances: One of the best ways to get inspired is to watch jazz dance performances. This could be live performances or recorded videos. Analyze the dancers’ movements and try to identify what sets jazz dance apart from other dance styles. You can even take notes on specific movements or choreography that you want to incorporate into your routine.
  • Explore jazz music: Jazz dance is heavily influenced by jazz music. Listen to different jazz genres and study the rhythm and dynamics of the music. You might be surprised at how much inspiration you can gather from the music alone.
  • Research jazz dance history: Understanding the history of jazz dance can give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of the art form. You can read about famous jazz dancers and their contributions to the style. Check out this article to get started.
  • Take a class: If you’re new to jazz dance, taking a class can give you a better understanding of the style and its techniques. Check out this beginner’s guide to jazz dance to learn more about the style.
  • Look to other dance styles: Jazz dance borrows elements from other dance styles, such as ballet, modern dance, and hip hop. You can incorporate these elements into your routine to make it more dynamic and interesting. Check out this article to learn more about the influence of other dance styles on jazz.

By gathering inspiration from a variety of sources, you can create a unique and engaging jazz dance routine. Don’t be afraid to try new things and step outside of your comfort zone. Remember, jazz dance is all about improvisation and creativity. You can even incorporate improvisation into your routine to make it more authentic and exciting.

Choose Music

When it comes to jazz dance choreography, music selection is crucial for setting the tone and inspiring movement. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing music for your routine:

  • Genre: Jazz music has a wide variety of subgenres, from classic swing to contemporary jazz fusion. Consider the style of jazz dance you are choreographing and choose music that complements it.
  • Tempo: The tempo of the music should match the movement and energy level of the dance. A fast tempo can be great for high-energy routines, while a slower tempo can be perfect for more lyrical pieces.
  • Rhythm: Jazz music often features complex rhythms that can be challenging to dance to. Look for music with a clear beat and rhythm that will be easy for dancers to follow.
  • Lyrics: If you choose music with lyrics, make sure they are appropriate for the style and context of the dance, as well as the age range and sensibilities of your dancers.

It can also be helpful to draw inspiration from jazz music history and culture. Jazz music has strong ties to African American culture, and was born out of improvisation and experimentation. Incorporating elements of jazz music history can add depth and meaning to your choreography. Check out our article on the influence of jazz music on jazz dance for more information.

Remember to also take into account the skill level of your dancers. More advanced dancers may be capable of handling complex rhythms and faster tempos, while beginners may need simpler, slower music to start.

Overall, music selection is a key part of designing a successful jazz dance routine. Take the time to choose music that inspires you and your dancers, and that fits the style and context of your choreography.

Consider the Skill Level of Dancers

When creating a jazz dance routine, it’s important to consider the skill level of the dancers who will be performing it. Not all dancers have the same level of experience or technique, so it’s important to design a routine that plays to their strengths and challenges them without overwhelming them.

One way to do this is to create a skill assessment chart for your dancers, which would highlight their strengths and weaknesses. This would give you an idea of what moves to avoid and what areas to focus on.

Another way to tailor your routine to the skill level of your dancers is to be mindful of the choreography complexity. It’s important to keep in mind that certain moves or sequences may be more difficult for some dancers than others. A good way to gauge this is to break down your choreography into smaller sections and then build up to more complex sequences.

You can also choose to incorporate modifications into your choreography to better serve your dancers’ abilities. If you have a dancer who struggles with turns, consider simplifying or altering the sequence for them.

It’s also essential to be mindful of the overall theme and style of the routine. Some styles may be more accessible for certain dancers than others. For example, a routine that emphasizes technical proficiency may work better for experienced dancers, while beginners may benefit from a routine that emphasizes performance elements.

Remember, whether you’re working with beginners or seasoned professionals, it’s crucial to create a routine that challenges your dancers while still allowing them to shine. By taking the time to consider the skill level of your dancers, you can create a routine that is both achievable and impressive.

In order to better understand the essential techniques of jazz dance that can be utilized in choreography, check out our 5 Essential Jazz Dance Techniques. Also, check out how jazz dance plays a role in contemporary performances in our article The Role of Jazz Dance in Contemporary Performances. Lastly, read about the significance of costume fashion in jazz dance in our article titled The Significance of Costume Fashion in Jazz Dance.

Designing Your Routine

Designing Your Routine
As you move on to the next stage of choreography, it’s time to turn your inspirations and concepts into a complete Jazz dance routine. This phase requires careful planning and thoughtful execution since each dance move must be meaningful and fit in harmony with the music. In this section of the article, we’ll share tips and tricks on how to design a flawless routine that will leave your audience spellbound. So let’s dive in and explore the essential elements you need to consider while crafting your jazz dance routine.

Consider Transitions

When designing a jazz dance routine, it is crucial to consider the transitions between the different dance moves. Transitions are the steps that connect one move to the next and ensure a seamless flow of the entire routine. Failure to plan for effective transitions can result in a choppy and disjointed performance.

To create smooth transitions, it is important to consider the timing, pace, and difficulty level of each move. You should also think about ways to incorporate levels and directions to make the transitions visually interesting.

One method of designing transitions is to use an HTML table to map out the sequence of steps. This table could include columns such as “Starting Move,” “Transition Move,” and “Ending Move.” You can also use the table to note the timing and pacing of each step.

By experimenting with different transitions and taking time to refine them, you can elevate your jazz dance choreography to the next level. Effective transitions will make your performance look more cohesive, polished, and professional.

Explore Rhythm and Dynamics

When designing jazz dance choreography, it’s essential to explore rhythm and dynamics to keep the routine interesting and engaging for both the dancers and the audience. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Play with musical accents: Jazz music is known for its syncopated rhythms, so consider incorporating that into your choreography. Highlight the offbeat accents with sharp movements or unexpected pauses.
  • Vary the tempo: While jazz dance is often fast-paced, it’s essential to vary the tempo to keep the routine dynamic. Experiment with slowing down certain movements to add contrast to the routine.
  • Mix up the dynamics: Jazz dance is not just about being loud and strong; it’s also about being smooth and fluid. Incorporate both sharp and smooth movements into the routine for a well-rounded performance.
  • Use isolation: Isolation refers to moving one part of the body while keeping the others still. Incorporating isolation into the routine adds an unexpected element that can add depth and interest to the performance.
  • Utilize musical phrasing: Music is often divided into phrases, so consider choreographing each section of your routine to match the musical phrasing. This technique enhances the connection between the music and the movements performed by the dancers.

By exploring different rhythms and dynamics, you can create a dynamic and engaging jazz dance routine that keeps the audience captivated and the dancers challenged. Remember to work closely with the music to create a routine that is both unique and true to the spirit of jazz dance.

Experiment with Formations

As you design your jazz dance routine, it’s essential to experiment with different formations. This will add a visual interest to your performance and also provide opportunities for dancers to showcase their talents. Here are some tips for experimenting with formations:

  • Mix up groupings: Jazz choreography often involves splitting dancers into smaller groups, so experiment with different combinations. Try having some dancers perform solo while others perform in pairs or larger groups.
  • Think about direction: Changing the direction of the dancers can be an effective way to add visual interest. For example, you could have them move in diagonals or circles instead of just straight lines.
  • Use levels: Experiment with having dancers perform at different heights. For example, some dancers could be standing while others are kneeling or lying on the ground. This adds depth to the performance and showcases different skills.
  • Play with symmetry: Symmetrical formations can create a strong visual impact, but you can also mix things up by having dancers perform in asymmetrical formations. This will add variety and interest to the routine.
  • Try different shapes: Experiment with having dancers form different shapes with their bodies. For example, they could form a circle, a diamond, or a straight line. This can be an effective way to highlight key moments in the routine.

By experimenting with different formations, you can add visual interest and depth to your jazz dance routine. Be creative and try new things to see what works best for your dancers and the overall performance.

Use Repetition Wisely

Repetition is a powerful tool in jazz dance choreography, but it should be used thoughtfully and intentionally. Simply repeating moves or sections of the routine without purpose can make the routine feel monotonous and dull. However, when used wisely, repetition can add emphasis and structure to the dance.

One way to use repetition is to repeat a particularly strong move or combination of movements throughout the routine. This can help emphasize the dance’s theme or message, while also providing a sense of consistency for the audience to follow. It’s important to ensure that the repetition is not overdone, so be sure to vary the timing, angles, and intensity of the move(s) to keep things fresh.

Another way to use repetition is to create a call-and-response effect between different groups of dancers, or between the dancers and the music. For example, the lead dancer(s) may perform a series of movements that the rest of the group responds to in a specific way. This can add a sense of unity and cohesion to the routine, and can also give the dancers an opportunity to show off their individual styles and personalities.


Advantages of Repetition Disadvantages of Repetition
Add emphasis and structure to the dance Can make the routine feel monotonous and dull
Provide a sense of consistency for the audience to follow May become overdone if not varied enough
Create a call-and-response effect between different groups of dancers or between dancers and the music

Repetition should be used sparingly and with purpose in jazz dance choreography. When used effectively, repetition can create a memorable and cohesive routine that leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

Teaching the Choreography

Teaching The Choreography
At this stage, it’s time to pass on your creative vision to the dancers. This can be a daunting task, but with careful planning and execution, you can make the teaching process run smoothly. It’s important to break down the choreography into manageable sections and allow adequate time for practice and refinement. With patience and persistence, your dancers will soon bring your routine to life with their energy and flair. Let’s dive into some tips for teaching your jazz dance choreography.

Break It Down

When teaching a jazz dance routine, it’s essential to break it down into smaller, manageable chunks so that dancers can learn and memorize the moves more easily. Start by teaching the routine step-by-step, focusing on one section at a time, and demonstrating each move slowly and clearly. Use a visual aid, such as a whiteboard or a projector, to show dancers the choreography and make it easier for them to understand.

Encourage dancers to practice each section before moving on to the next, and provide them with feedback and guidance to help them improve their technique. It’s also helpful to break down the routine into counts of eight or sixteen, as this is the traditional way of counting in dance. This will make it easier for dancers to remember the timing of the routine and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Once dancers have learned each section of the routine, put everything together and run through the entire choreography a few times to ensure that dancers are comfortable with the transitions between each section. Pay attention to any sections where dancers may be struggling and provide extra guidance where needed.

It’s important to remember that every dancer learns differently, so be patient and adapt your teaching style to suit the needs of your group. Some dancers may learn more quickly by watching, while others may need to practice the moves themselves. Be open to feedback and adjust your approach as needed to ensure that everyone is able to learn and perform to the best of their abilities.

Breaking down a jazz dance routine may seem time-consuming, but it’s a crucial part of the choreography process. By providing clear and concise instruction, you can help your dancers feel confident and prepared for their performance.

Steps to follow for breaking it down
Start by teaching the routine step-by-step, demonstrating each move slowly and clearly.
Use a whiteboard or a projector to show dancers the choreography and make it easier for them to understand.
Break down the routine into counts of eight or sixteen.
Encourage dancers to practice each section before moving on to the next, and provide them with feedback and guidance.
Put everything together and run through the entire choreography a few times.
Be patient and adapt your teaching style to suit the needs of your group.

Practice, Practice, Practice

After breaking down the choreography, the next step is to practice it repeatedly. Repetition is key to mastering any routine. Here are some tips for maximizing practice sessions:

  • Schedule Regular Rehearsals: Set a schedule for rehearsals and stick to it. Make sure all dancers are aware of the schedule and commit to attending. Consistent practice builds muscle memory and helps dancers develop a feel for the choreography.
  • Focus on Correct Technique: Encourage dancers to focus on proper technique during practice. This will not only help improve the quality of the routine but also avoid potential injury down the line.
  • Use Video Recordings: Record practices to help dancers visualize the routine and identify areas for improvement. Video recordings can also help dancers understand how their movements fit within the larger group and provide feedback on timing and synchronization.
  • Take Breaks: Breaks are essential during long practice sessions to avoid burnout and prevent injuries. Encourage dancers to take breaks to stretch, hydrate, and rest as needed.
  • Run Full Performances: As the performance date approaches, run full performances of the routine to identify any sections that need additional work. Running full performances will help develop endurance and prepare dancers for the physical demands of the performance.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so encourage dancers to put in the effort to master the routine through consistent and focused practice sessions.

Refining Your Routine

As your jazz dance routine begins to take shape, it’s important to remember that there’s always room for improvement. Refining your routine is a crucial step in the choreography process, where you can fine-tune the details and elevate the overall performance. This stage of the process requires a keen eye for detail and the willingness to take feedback from your dancers. Below, we’ll discuss some key strategies for refining your routine and taking your jazz dance performance to the next level.

Take Feedback from Dancers

Receiving feedback from the dancers who will perform the jazz dance routine is integral to ensuring its success. Here are some tips for taking their feedback into account:

  • Encourage Open Communication: Let your dancers know that their feedback is both welcomed and valuable throughout the dance creation process. Create an open dialogue where they can share their opinions and ideas.
  • Ask for Specific Feedback: When asking for feedback, be sure to ask specific questions. This can include questions about the difficulty of certain moves, the flow of the choreography, or the clarity of instructions.
  • Be Open-Minded: Be open to suggestions and ideas from your dancers, even if they differ from your original vision. Remember, dance is a collaborative art form, and everyone’s input is valuable.
  • Integrate Feedback into Your Choreography: After receiving feedback, incorporate it into your jazz dance routine. This will show your dancers that you value their opinions and are committed to creating a successful routine as a team.
  • Thank Your Dancers: Lastly, remember to thank your dancers for their feedback and contributions. Showing gratitude and appreciation will keep them motivated and engaged throughout the entire process.

By taking feedback from your dancers, you can refine your jazz dance routine and ensure that it is both challenging and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Refine Transitions and Timing

To make a successful jazz dance choreography, refining the transitions and timing is essential. It is important to make sure that every move flows seamlessly into the next one, and that the timing of the transitions is spot on. Here are some tips to help you refine transitions and timing for your routine:

  • Record and Analyze: The first step is to record a full run-through of the routine and analyze the transitions. This will help you identify any hiccups or inconsistencies in the timing and flow of the performance.
  • Break it Down: Once you’ve identified the areas that need improvement, break down those parts into smaller sections and work on them individually. This allows you to give more attention to those parts and refine them more effectively.
  • Practice with Music: Timing is critical in jazz dance, and it’s important to practice the transitions with the music. Breakdown the transitions and practice them separately, then gradually incorporate music to perfect timing.
  • Use Counting: If the transitions are still not quite on point, try counting along with the music to help the dancers anticipate the moves and timing. This can also help them get the timing right for any specific movements.
  • Adjust Speed: Speeding up or slowing down certain movements can also alter the transitions’ timing and make things smoother. Experiment with the pace, and try to find a speed that works best for the routine.
  • Rehearse Together: Lastly, run through the routine several times as a group. This will help the dancers get comfortable with the transitions and practice timing in a real performance setting. By rehearsing together, everyone can get on the same page and help each other to refine transitions and timing.

By taking the time to refine transitions and timing, you can elevate the routine and take it to the next level. Practice is essential, so keep rehearsing and refining until the transitions are seamless and the timing is perfect.

Use Costuming and Props to Enhance Performance

As important as the movements themselves, costuming and props can enhance and elevate a jazz dance performance. Here are some tips on how to use them effectively:

  • Choose Costumes That Complement the Dance: When designing your costumes, take into consideration the style and theme of your routine. The costume should not only look good, but also aid in the movements and add an extra dimension to the piece.
  • Make Sure Costumes Are Comfortable: Dance is physically demanding, so it is essential that costumes allow for freedom of movement and do not restrict dancers in any way. Consider using materials that are stretchy and breathable, like spandex.
  • Experiment with Props: Jazz dance routines can benefit from the use of props, such as hats, canes or chairs. Props should add to the overall aesthetic of the piece and not distract from the dancers. Be careful not to select props that will be dangerous or difficult to manipulate during the routine.
  • Keep the Focus on the Dancers: As much as costumes and props can enhance a performance, they should never be the main focus. The dancers and their movements should remain at the center of the performance. Costumes and props should simply provide a complementary background for the dancers.

Costumes and props can be used creatively to add a fun and unique touch to a jazz dance routine. When used correctly, they can help to bring a performance to the next level and leave a lasting impression on the audience.


In conclusion, creating a successful jazz dance routine requires careful consideration and planning. From gathering inspiration to refining the final performance, each step of the process must be approached with intention and creativity.

Remember the Importance of Inspiration: When creating a jazz dance routine, it’s crucial to gather inspiration from a variety of sources. From music to other choreographers, incorporating a range of artistic influences can help to create a truly unique and dynamic routine.

Consider the Skill Level of Your Dancers: Take the skill level of your dancers into account when designing your routine. This will ensure that they are able to consistently perform at their best, and that the routine is challenging but not overwhelming.

Experiment with Formations and Repetition: To create a visually engaging routine, consider experimenting with different formations and using repetition wisely, such as repeating a signature move to emphasize the structure of the performance.

Practice Makes Perfect: When teaching the routine to your dancers, take the time to break it down into manageable steps and practice, practice, practice. Refining and perfecting the routine takes time and dedication, but with hard work and patience, a successful performance can be achieved.

Be Open to Feedback: Taking feedback from your dancers can be incredibly beneficial in helping to refine the routine. Constructive criticism can help to pinpoint areas that need improvement and ultimately lead to a stronger and more polished performance.

Refine Transitions, Timing, and Costuming: Pay attention to the smaller details of the routine, such as transitions, timing, and costuming. These elements can greatly enhance the overall performance and help to create a well-rounded and professional show.

By following these tips and tricks for creating a successful jazz dance routine, you can unlock the full potential of your dancers and create a performance that truly wins over audiences. Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment, and most importantly, enjoy the artistic process along the way.

Preguntas frecuentes

What makes Jazz dance different from other dance styles?

Jazz dance incorporates a wide range of styles and techniques, including ballet, modern dance, and African movement, making it a diverse and dynamic dance form.

Can anyone learn Jazz dance?

Yes! Jazz dance is accessible to dancers of all levels and backgrounds, and can be adapted to suit individual skill levels.

What are some common Jazz dance moves?

Some classic Jazz dance moves include the kick ball change, the pivot step, the jazz square, and the chaîné turn.

How should I choose music for my Jazz dance routine?

Select music that inspires you and fits the mood or theme of your routine. Popular Jazz dance music includes swing, bebop, and fusion jazz.

What should I consider when designing formations for my Jazz routine?

When designing formations, consider the number and skill level of your dancers, the stage size and layout, and the visual impact of the formation.

How can I use repetition effectively in my Jazz dance routine?

Repetition can be used to emphasize certain moves or themes, but should be balanced with variation and creativity to keep the routine engaging.

What is the best way to teach a Jazz dance routine?

Break the routine down into smaller sections, demonstrate each section slowly and clearly, and repeat as necessary. Encourage dancers to practice independently and offer individual feedback and support.

How can costuming and props enhance a Jazz dance performance?

Costumes and props can be used to enhance the theme or mood of a routine, add visual interest, and highlight individual dancers or sections of the routine.

Do I need to have a theme or story for my Jazz dance routine?

No, but having a theme or story can add depth and meaning to the routine and provide inspiration for movement choices.

Can I incorporate other dance styles into my Jazz dance routine?

Absolutely! Jazz dance can be blended with other dance styles, such as hip-hop or contemporary, to create a unique and dynamic performance.


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