What is Jazz?

November 18, 2016

“What is Jazz?” asked Sid Caesar back in the 1960? He didn’t know and turned to Jack Cole to dance the answer. This may be one of the most difficult questions to answer, and it’s exactly what I asked Lars Rosager, one Tuesday afternoon when I sat down to talk with him here at Steps On Broadway.

Lars Rosager is a California native who first encountered Jazz Dance in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He enrolled in an extra curricular class and his teacher immediately saw the potential in him and encouraged him to pursue it as a career. So, he saved up and moved to New York City to begin a life in dance. On his very first day, he went to the original American Dance Machine to take class and also took a ballet class with David Howard. After only six short months there, Lars got his “big break” in 42nd Street on Broadway, where he stayed for six years! After a highly successful performance career, Lars eventually made the transition over into teaching and choreographing. Currently he is on faculty at AMDA, where he teaches a Dance History course in which he developed for the school. Lars also teaches for the new American Dance Machine for the 21st Century here at Steps and says that he is very grateful for the opportunity to blend his passions for dance and dance history together. “Life has come full circle,” he exclaimed.

When I asked Lars how he felt about the role that Jazz Dance plays in today’s society versus when he was just starting out, his response was that it still plays just as important of a role, because it is helping to inspire and create new styles of dance, while still containing the basic characteristics that defined the style from the beginning. Jazz Dance is ever changing. He says it’s hard to define it today because it has evolved so much. It’s not that Jazz Dance cannot be defined, but rather that it has a very broad definition.

Lars says that he feels the preservation of Jazz Dance styles is just as important as preserving any other style of dance. They’re important in historical context because they represent the time period and teach us what the people felt and why they created the moves that they did. Dances such as the Charleston and the Lindy were once considered vulgar and shocking, but are now considered classic styles that represent our history. “Does this mean that the Juju will one day be considered historically important?” he asks. We’re not quite sure about that one, but you never know!

Having the opportunity to sit down and talk with Lars about something I am very passionate about was incredible. I learned so much in that short hour and left feeling inspired to keep sharing the knowledge and love of Jazz Dance with others. If you want to learn more about Jazz, Lars recommends checking out the book “Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance” by: Marshall and Jean Stearns. You will go into your next Jazz class with a whole new sense of appreciation for the art form.

Happy Dancing!

– Talia Putrino
Steps on Broadway Intern

“>click here to watch Jack Cole’s Beale Street Blues

Dig Jazz Dance? Check out ADM21’s classes at Steps through the end of November featuring choreography of Jack Cole.

What is Jazz?