Famous Jazz Dancers

Several famous jazz dancers have shaped the steps along the jazz dance path. Their contributions to the methodology and performance stand out.

Alvin Ailey
Born in 1931, Ailey overcame a broken home to become one of the most famous dancers and choreographers in jazz and modern dance. Ailey's appreciation of dance developed after attending a performance of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. He studied with Martha Graham and Lester Horton. Following Horton's death, Ailey assumed control of his dance troop, and by 1958, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company was on its way to becoming one of the top troupes in the world.

Katharine Dunham
Dunham studied ballet and formed the first black ballet company in the United States. Balle Negre eventually became known as the Katharine Dunham Dance Company. An anthropologist, Dunham lived and studied dance in the Caribbean.

Bob Fosse
Fosse grew up in the theater; one of his parents was a vaudeville performer. By age 13, he was dancing professionally. He's famous for his work as a choreographer, where he would arrange groups of dancers in an embellished manner.

Gus Giordano
After visiting New Orleans at age five, Giordano embraced jazz music and the world of dance. He continued studying dance, and once he graduated from college, he received several roles in Broadway musicals. In the 1960s, he opened the Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and formed one of the top jazz dance ensembles.

Martha Graham
Trained at a fine arts school, Graham defined performance skills and won critical acclaim for her performance in "Xochital", the story of an Aztec maiden. After performing on vaudeville, Graham took a teaching position at the Eastman School of Music. Here, she incorporated convulsive motions and sexually explicit repetitions. And the world of dance would never again be the same.

Twyla Tharp
Tharp was born into a musical family and studied dance in college. She studied at the American Ballet Theater in NYC by age 23, formed her own company. Her style of improvisational dance movement resulted in what is known as a crossover dancer, or a performer who is versatile in ballet and jazz and modern dance.

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