dancer brandon oneal wearing all black striking a jazz pose in front of an orange brick wall

7 Essential Jazz Moves To Help You Improv

Key Points: 

  • Many dancers have been taught to improvise during contemporary classes, but when it comes to other styles of improvisation, it’s easy to feel like you don’t know where to begin. 
  • We teamed up with Saleemah Knight for the essential jazz dance moves every dancer should know to help boost their improvisation confidence in jazz.  
  • Head to the CLI Studios YouTube Channel to learn “Spank The Baby,” “Attack Annie,” “Truckin’,” “Al & Leon James Triplet,” “The Charleston,” “The Applejack,” and “Shorty George” from professional dancer and dance professor Saleemah E. Knight.

Have you ever been at the end of a jazz class, ready to give the combo your all one last time, when your teacher says, “Okay! This time improv for the first 2 counts of 8!” and suddenly you find yourself frozen? We’ve definitely been there! It’s easy to feel like you’ve forgotten every jazz move you’ve ever learned when faced with a section of improv in class – but we’re here to help! We teamed up with Saleemah E. Knight for a quick confidence boost when it comes to jazz improvisation.

Jazz Moves That Every Dancer Should Know

1. Spank The Baby

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant stepping out and slapping their hips

Explore polycentric movement and find a groove in this classic jazz move.

2. Attack Annie

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant moving from side to side while rotating their right arm

Find internal and external rotation of the knees while swinging the arm in a quick circular motion.

3. Truckin’

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant hopping from one foot to another while shaking their finger

Alternate between your right and left legs while pointing your finger in this classic hopping step.

4. Al & Leon James Triplet

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant hopping and crossing their feet

Move from parallel to turned out position as you cross your legs in a single, single, double, double pattern.

5. The Charleston

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant stepping forward while swinging their arms

Discover bucking and winging movement in a basic Charleston stepping pattern while swinging your arms. Next, find velocity by adding in a chasse and a scuff at the top!

6. The Applejack

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant swiveling their hips while stepping backwards

Start this quick move with a smooth jump and snap before swiveling your hips in a backward stepping motion.

7. Shorty George

dancer saleemah knight and her assistant pointing down to the ground while bending their knees

Make an asymmetrical shape with your arms and legs while taking alternating steps.

Next time you’re in jazz class, know that you are fully prepared to take on the improvisation section of the combo. Head to the CLI Studios YouTube Channel to try some of the moves above. If you want to continue training with Saleemah, check out a few of her classes in our on-demand library!

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