Jazz dance is a classification shared by a broad range of dance styles. Before the 1950s, jazz dance referred to dance styles that originated from African American vernacular dance. In the 1950s, a new genre of jazz dance—modern jazz dance—emerged, with roots in Caribbean traditional dance. Every individual style of jazz dance has roots traceable to one of these two distinct origins.
Until the mid 1950s jazz dance referred to the dance styles that originated from the African American vernacular dance of the late 19th century to mid-20th century. Jazz dance often referred to tap dance because tap dancing, set to jazz music, was one of the predominant dances of the era. Jazz dance evolved over time to spawn a diverse range of social and concert dance styles. During the later jazz age, popular forms of jazz dance included the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, swing and the related Lindy Hop. Today, many of these dance styles are still popular and continue to be practiced and taught.
After the 1950s pioneers such as Katherine Dunham took the essence of Caribbean traditional dance and made it into a performing art. With the growing domination of other forms of entertainment music, jazz dance evolved on Broadway into the new, smooth style that is taught today and known as modern jazz, while tap dance branched off to follow its own, separate evolutionary path. The performance style of jazz dance was popularized to a large extent by Bob Fosse's work, which is exemplified by Broadway shows such as Chicago, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, and The Pajama Game. Modern jazz dance continues to be an essential element of musical theatre, and it can often be seen in music videos and competitive dance.