As jazz music was evolving in the early 20th century, people were moved by it and moved to it. Early jazz dances like the Charleston and the Lindy Hop emerged as a response to swing music and, like their musical counterpart, celebrated energetic improvisation using vocabulary rooted in West African and African American aesthetics. In the 1940s, the music took a sharp new turn: the art form moved into the era of bebop, the modern, virtuosic and up-tempo style that critics complained “you can't dance to.” While bebop musicians cleverly retorted that maybe “you can't dance to it,” the critics were right that the tight bond which made jazz music and jazz dance inseparable was starting to loosen.
Josh Culbreath in “The Musician and the Mover” by Raphael Xavier. Photograph by Maria Baranova