A brief history of ballet, tap and jazz dance through the ages

Dancing allows the stresses of everyday life to melt away. It is a natural reaction of joy, celebration and excitement. It is a form of praise and an outlet for creativity and emotion. While there was no specific day or time that it was invented, dance can be observed in many forms and purposes throughout history.


Photo by Sstevo, flickr.com

Biblical times…

As early as biblical times, dance is mentioned as a form of happiness and is often closely associated with music. It is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, including in the books of Job, Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah, as a way to express happiness and joy. The books of Psalms references dancing as an act of praise and worship, as well.

Greek mythology…

Terpsichore was the ancient Greeks’ Muse of dance and dramatic chorus, reflecting a glorified and honored place for dance in the culture of ancient Greece around 600 B.C.

16th and 17th Century Europe…

By the 1500s, the Renaissance in France and Italy had given way to the very first ballets. They were made as a form of entertainment for the royal and wealthy and included music and glamorous costumes. This led French King Louis XIV to start the first known dance company called Académie Royale de Danse in 1662, where dancers could train in the art of ballet. The next several centuries brought famous ballets that are still being performed today, including Swan Lake (1877) and Coppélia (1870).

African and European influences in the United States…

African slaves and European immigrants in the 19th century brought with them a culture of dance that took hold, eventually forming into what is now known as jazz and tap dance. The more relaxed and loose dancing focused on distinct rhythms and and beats in music. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, these dance forms had gained followers and dancers who enjoyed the freedom that they enabled. Famous jazz choreographers include Bob Fosse (1927-1987), Jack Cole (1911-1974) and Jerome Robbins (1918-1998). Check out these videos of famous tap dancers Fred Astaire (1899-1987) and Gene Kelly (1912-1996) in action!


Today is dance is everywhere, from local studios to TV shows and movies. Reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dance Moms follow real dancers with dreams to make it in the world of dance. Plenty of different types and styles of dance have come from the basic forms of tap, ballet and jazz, including break dancing, hip hop and ballroom, among many others.

Check out this slideshow for a brief look at the development of ballet through the years…


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