The two top director/choreographers of the 1970s were Micheal Bennett and Bob Fosse. In 1974 Micheal Bennett began work with a group of fellow stage gypsies and asked them to talk about why they like to dance. This resulted in the opening in 1975 of the hit show “A Chorus Line” which glorified the Broadway dancer and dance style. With its hard driving jazz dance, tap dance and flamboyant ballet the personality of the Broadway gypsy hit a new level of popularity.
Bob Fosse was undoubtedly the choreographer of the 70s. In Broadway successes like “Pippin”, “Chicago”, “Dancin””, the movies “Cabaret”, “All That Jazz” and the television special “Liza With A Z” Fosse used his unique jazz dance style as in all his productions. The hip popping, elbow jutting, finger snapping song and dance man with the tipped derby became Fosse’s trademark.
The other major influence in the 70’s was the success of
the movie “Saturday Night Fever”. A partner dance with similar patterns to the earlier Lindy became popular called The Hustle. Disco music with its heavy 4/4 beat dominated the charts, and clubs like Studio 54 thrived. A new style of movement evolved at this time involving sharp, hard, isolated movements of the body called popping and locking. Lockers as they became known were the first highly visible exponents of a style of street dance that would later evolve into breakdance and hip-hop.
With the end of the 70s disco faded. Punk rock music became popular as a rebellion against disco and psychedelic music with a faster, harder edged beat. Computer programmed drum and synthesisers invaded the pop music charts again with a faster beat reflecting the aerobic exercise trends of the 1980s.
Theatrical jazz dance on Broadway suffered a decline in the ‘80s with the loss of Michael
Bennett and Bob Fosse. The success in 1989 of the retrospective, “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” also emphasised the lack of dance in shows of the decade. The musicals of Andrew Lloyd Weber emerged on Broadway during the ‘80s but were primarily vocal shows. The only shows with any jazz dance influence were revival shows like “Guys & Dolls” and the show “Tommy”.
The film industry gave visibility to the emerging street dance with the Lockers and the newest urban dance collectively called “breakdancing”. Breakdancing was a free style which combined a smooth continuos wave of movement through the body called electric boogie with hard, sharp, isolated movements known as poppin’ and gymnastic elements called breakin’ with spins on the floor, sometimes on the head, arms, back and hands. The films “Fame” (1980), “Flashdance” (1983) and “Breakin’” (1984) helped make street dance popular.
It was in 1981 that the video television channel MTV debuted. Essentially a channel to promote popular music, dance became more a part of the music video with rap groups using breakdancers to enhance their productions and various other forms of jazz dance being used by more mainstream performers.
With the continued evolution of youth and urban culture in the 1990s breakdancing became hip-hop. Hip-hop had it’s own music, clothing and vocabulary. Its dance moves derives from the same original base as jazz dance but does not utilise the same swing beat. By strict definition hip-hop is not jazz dance but more of a close cousin.
In a short time MTV altered the image of jazz dance and the way in which it was presented. While the style of jazz dance was set by the Broadway and old film musicals the coolness of hip-hop and street dance has dominated our culture. It is the visibility of such performers as Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, Madonna and more recently Janet Jackson who have combined the style of
theatrical jazz dance with the toughness of street dance that has ensured the continued evolution and changing face of jazz dance.