By: Shannon Shull
I am so blessed to have arts integration in my life! Recently, I had the opportunity to teach the history and moves of Jazz era dances to a group of amazing 5th graders. I worked with the Music teacher, who taught the students about the most influential jazz musicians and singers of the era, while I taught them about the popular dances that had folks all around the world movin’ to jazzy beats. What a trip! We had a great time learning dances like the Cakewalk, the Black Bottom, the Charleston, the Swing, the Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug and even the Boogie Woogie.
As most of you well know, we can never stop learning! We can educate ourselves in so many ways until the day we die. With every arts integration residency or teaching gig I do, I always learn something new. I thought I knew a good amount about dance, but I tell you what, in the case of this super cool, recent residency of mine, I not only learned about these groundbreakingly popular dances from the late 1800s to early 1900s, but I now have a profound respect for the ability and talent of the dancers who jived and worked it on the dance floors of that time.
While researching video footage of actual dancers to show the students, I came across some incredible clips. Let’s just say, if some of these Jazz era dancers worked these moves on some of today’s popular dance tv shows, they would knock people’s socks off! My favorite clip is of the Whitney’s Lindy Hoppers, a professional performance group of swing dancers, from the 1941 film “Hellzapoppin.” My students responded something fierce to this video! They absolutely loved it! There was a lot of hooting and hollerin’ as they watched this one. Watch this short clip and you will truly be blown away by the energy and talent of these fabulous dancers!
If you’re at all interested in dance, take some time to check out the dances of the Jazz era. Play some jivin’ jazz music and move that body of yours. You are guaranteed to have a great time! Along with my new deep appreciation for these jazzy dances, I know I certainly plan to engage in some Lindy Hoppin’, Jitterbuggin’ Swing dancin’ any chance I can!