Dance is regarded as a form of emotional and physical expression. It falls in the category of performing art and involves body movements in a rhythmic manner. Dance is a part of almost every culture around the world and its forms vary from region to region.
There are many genres, styles and types of dance as all of them have some logic and expression. These styles can be social, competitive, ceremonial or even erotic. Moreover, all dance forms have a completely different nature. For instance, African dance is blunt and open as compared to other dance forms. Similarly, step and break dance are forms of street dance.
Jazz and contemporary are also very famous styles of dance. Both styles are similarities and dissimilarities at the same time and only those can identify the differences who follow these genres closely.
The first and basic difference is the background music as Jazz is often performed on traditional music whereas the contemporary dance has no such limit. It can be performed even on jazz music. Similarly, some performers showcase their dance skills even without any music or sound effects.
Contemporary dancers are mostly barefoot whereas the jazz dance is performed in jazz shoes or sneakers. Another difference is the pace of moves. In jazz dance, the performers move swiftly and sharply whereas contemporary dancers’ moves are soft and lyrical. Jazz movements are easy to interpret whereas contemporary style comprises more abstract moves.
Contemporary dance is a mixture of ballet and modern dance while jazz did not emerge from any other form of dance. In contemporary dance, choreography appears a bit disordered but the story is entirely different in jazz dance.
To make it more understandable, you can say that jazz is more entertaining whereas the contemporary dance is more sophisticated and artistic.