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Jazz Square Using The Clock

Posted by terrepruitt on October 12, 2013

I took dance lessons when I was young.  I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know the Jazz Square.  Of course there had to be a time because one is not born knowing what a Jazz Square is much less how to do one.  But I don’t remember not knowing how to do it.  So I actually must have learned it prior to my dance lessons, because I was young when I took my lessons but not THAT young.  Whatever the case . . . . unfortunately it was all too long ago for me to truly know . . . I knew what a Jazz Square was when I entered my first Nia Class and when I took the Nia White Belt Intensive.  While the Jazz Square is not included as one of Nia’s 52 Moves it is something we do a lot in our routines.  It could be considered part of the Jazz Dance that is one of the Nine Movement forms that make up Nia.  Well, not everyone has had dance lessons or knows how to do a Jazz Square.  So we can use the clock to help them.

Nia has a core set of moves called Nia’s 52 Moves.  Three of them actually have “clock” in their names.  One is Rock Around the Clock, another is Slow Clock, and another is Fast Clock.  So it makes sense that with those moves we would use a clock image to do the move and/or help explain and instruct the move.  I have posted before about how we use the clock to help direct other moves.  Well, the Jazz Square is one of them.  While it is called a square it sometimes might be more of a rectangle, but the idea is to use the four corners.

First thing to know is that the Jazz Square is just four steps.  So often I will just have my students march or step four counts.  Sometimes we will get the dance going with that and then move to the square.  Some people stay with the marching and that is fine.  Another VERY important thing to know AND DO is to weight each step.  As in, put all your weight onto each step you take.  When you are learning the jazz square this is of the utmost importance.  This will ensure that you are taking a left, right, left, right (or right, left, right, left) approach and not trying to use the same foot – as in left, left, right, left – and just getting tangled up.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia at the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Zumba, PiYo, Gentle YogaLet’s do a Jazz Square left-over-right.  So we will be starting with our left foot and having it cross over the right foot to the right side.  The left foot comes over to the right and lands on 2 o’clock, the right foot comes back to the back right corner and lands on 4 o’clock.   Then the left foot steps back to the back left corner – 8 o’clock, then the right foot steps over to the upper left corner – 10 o’clock.  That is one jazz square.  To keep going the left foot swings around the right foot to the upper right corner – 2 o’clock and you continue on.

So right-over-left is: right foot to upper left corner (10 o’clock), left foot to back left corner (8 o’clock), right foot to back right corner (4 o’clock), left foot to upper right corner (2 o’clock).  To keep going the right foot must swing around the left foot back up to the upper left corner (10 o’clock).

Sometimes when we are doing a fast jazz square my square turns into a diamond with step one being more at 1 and the corners a little askew.  But I have corners!

As with many things sometimes it is easier for a person to do it one way than the other.  So it might be easy to do left foot over right foot, but when you switch it is not as easy.  Sometimes that is when a student will march.  Or they will do the jazz square but not the hand or body movement that we pair with it.  Continuing to move is the key so whatever they do is great.  Eventually with practice, the can do it!

Perhaps this will help.

Key things to remember:

  • FOUR steps
  • Put your weight on every step
  • Step to 2, 4, 8, 10 – left, right, left, right or
  • Step to 10, 8, 4, 2 – right, left, right, left
  • Marching is an option
  • Have fun

Do you do the Jazz Square?  Does this help?  Can you do the Jazz Square and a shimmy?  Both ways?

4 Responses to “Jazz Square Using The Clock”

  1. niachick said

    I remember a time early on in my Nia teaching when I hated the Jazz Square. It just wasn’t something that came natural for me. I also remember talking to a Nia mentor friend at the time and telling her my distaste for the JS to which she replied, “you might want to get used to it, Carlos uses it ALOT”. Once I learned it, it actually became my FAVORITE step! It still is a fave of mine and I love the song from Beyond, “Without Warning”, where it’s two slow jazz squares and walking in a circle which then goes to fast jazz squares and walking (or trotting as the case may be) in a circle. I just love that choreography and use it alot with some of my own music.

    It’s so cool that you took dance lessons when you were young. I always wanted to but never did until I was an adult — very different learning things as an adult!!!!

    Thanks for your blog…most wonderful as usual!!


    • Ha, ha, ha. There is Nia, right? Teaching . . . . it taught you or was the vehicle that taught you to love jazz squares.

      I took ballet and tap for . . . probably a couple of months. It wasn’t very long.

      Thank YOU for reading and commenting, Jill. I appreciate it!


  2. psyopuskitten said

    this is actually now called a fast clock,and not a jazz square :)mostly because they want ,using your clock code,to look more like… 1-4-8-11 with the one and 11 even closer to the 12…..more like a jazz triangle….better on the knees like this 🙂 love your posts 🙂 xo~a

    andrea bell Nia Black Belt Teacher/Animal Care Provider/Jedi-In-Training 🙂 For Nia classes/Events check out my profile: http://www.nianow.com/andreabelland website: http://www.movementasmettaphor.com/

    If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

    Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 06:01:15 +0000 To: helenbacktlc@hotmail.com


    • 🙂

      So if they are calling the jazz square a fast clock what are they calling the movement that is (used to be?) the “Fast Clock”?

      As with most moves I find the learning portion is often more exaggerated and exact than the actually dancing portion. So, kind of as I mentioned, when I am doing the jazz square in a dance it seems to become more of a off-kilter square or diamond shape. What is really great is when the participant actually knows how to do it, it becomes their own and they do it in their own way.

      I will probably stick with calling the jazz square a jazz square, since it is a “universal” dance move/term. 🙂 If Nia is gonna call it a fast clock, I can just stop calling the Fast Clock (or what used to be the Fast Clock), the “Fast Clock”. Ha, ha, ha.


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