Poster of the documentary Uprooted

A fascinating exploration of the cultural and historical impact jazz dance has had on America, it situates the connection between dance and oppressed sections of society.

Dance has something that no other art form can match. It goes beyond description or structure and rather taps into something primal and immediate. As one interviewee in the film notes, “It’s the oldest art-form”, one that came into being before humans could talk. Such is the core of Uprooted’s message – the expressing the frustrations and oppression of the world through raw movement through dance.

Directed by Khadifa Wong, and speaking to an array of figures from Jazz dances relatively short history, Uprooted explores how jazz dance metamorphosed from the fields of the deep south, to attracting thousands on Broadway. Jazz and therefore jazz dance, grew in the mists of the civil rights movement in the US and the film shows it not simply as a product of society, but an active catalyst of what would lead into the ‘free-love’ of the late 1960s. But the films shows that there’s more to the story than this alone; linking West African culture, mixed in with other influences from immigrants in the US, in the creation of jazz dance.

While it’s a fascinating watch, Uprooted is no cinematic feat of documentary making, presented primarily through talking heads. The interviews are left very simple as all the spotlights is left for all the dance performances featured in the documentary. This is certainly film which will attract those with a preconceived interest in the subject, whether that be specifically in dance, art or culture. If you are this kind of viewer, then Uprooted ticks all of these boxes, providing an intriguing and intellectually stimulating summary of jazz dance and it’s place in American culture. However, the movie offers a great insight into the world of Jazz and Jazz Dance. Something that a normal human being not particularly have knowledge in.


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