Anne Mercurio gives a detailed review of the November 2011 jazz choreography project:

Marian Hyun began the festival with an introduction.  She gave us a brief background of Jazz Choreography Enterprises and shared that there are dancers and choreographers of all ages and levels in the show.  Once the details were complete, the 14 jazz pieces began.  Ms. Hyun graciously, for both the dancers and the audience, let us know that high school students would perform the first piece.

With black, white and sharp contrasting shapes these students performed Mary Lynne McAnally’s “Down to Business” with precision and confidence.  It was a terrific first piece for the evening, and for this writer, sparked the memories of loving to be in jazz class.

The second piece of the evening began the roller coaster ride of a dynamic variation of dances that all fall into the broad category of Jazz Dance. Robotic with a dash of Twilight (perhaps because of the corsets and sparkling appliqué tribal facial decorations), “The Takeover” by Cara Goodwin is a dark fusion of body articulation and strong technique.

There were a few pieces in the evening that would lead a viewer to think that epic love requires balletic dancing. The stylistic party of “Love in Three Acts” was the first to introduce the idea.  Overall the work is a fully visual experience. Chip Klose uses the choreographic tool of stillness in the midst of movement to powerful effect. One of the funniest moments of the evening occurred in that same work, when the lady-in-red temptress — after a few failed attempts to lure the besotted fella away from his girl — stood at the edge of the stage and actually, hilariously, sobbed out loud to get his attention.

The fourth work of the evening was “Down the Line” by Napoleon W. Gladney, danced by the breathtaking Brandon Tyler. Mr Tyler has a constant sense of movement in his body. One movement holds space for a moment while the next climbs his spine to his hand, through his legs or even in to a quiet gesture of longing. Bravo to the dancer for making the choreography look like a breathing improvisation of an emotional journey. Additional kudos to the dancer, the choreographer and the producers for the order of the show in that moment… Mr. Tyler gave us the sense that he was longing after a member of the happy go lucky couples of “Love in Three Acts” that had just left the stage.

“Mad Flava” by Cat Manturuk is the jazz dance all students want to see their teachers do at the end of year show — something catchy, playful and something to aspire to.  Props to the dancer with dredlocks, her hat stayed at a fab angle the entire time and her possession of the movement was delicious.

“The Daydreamers” by Marian Hyun is a charming dance full of personality and character.  Perhaps these Daydreamers were members of a small office reimagining their interactions, or maybe they were all strangers on a train, but the playful, silly and enjoyable dance hooked into that moment we’ve all had while serving jury duty: “Wouldn’t it be more fun if we just danced instead?”

“Shallow” by Michele Cuccaro was a high point of the evening.  A stereotypical MTV video beginning: hot girls with furs and glam bags out on the town — until suddenly the lyric “no one ugly allowed” hangs in the air, and the leader of the pack is left alone. The dance that next occurred was an unexpected turn and welcome departure in both movement vocabulary and the partnering strength of the dancers. Bridget Perfetto stood out as a highly articulate, clear mover. She makes complicated movement and intense partnering look quite easy.

In “Jim and Betty” by Liz Piccoli, a woman sits down to read on a bench – a lovely image in the moment.  She begins wistfully moving toward the empty side of the bench as if someone is missing, or as if she’s longing for something that never occurred. Until her younger self, played by a sparkling and lovely dancer, enters, taking her place on the bench with her own book. Once the young man joins on stage, a coy and playful dance of a first meeting between boy and girl ensues.  They travel through various stages: from first meeting, playful love, pouting and making up – all a voyeuristic joy to be a part of from both our standpoint, and the view of the original woman, who had moved upstage to watch the interactions. Every moment between them was clean, decisive, fully engaged and committed.  

An extremely classic Fosse style piece named “Gotta Move” by Alan Spaulding and danced by Christina Malis was charming in its hark to 42nd St style tights-over-leotard costuming. Ms. Malis could well have been Cassie dancing her way into hearts ten blocks downtown.

The evening took yet another stylistic turn with Ellenore Scott’s “Woke Up in Beijing”.  A dark trio that showcases each dancer separately in solos while the others lay crumpled on the ground. There is an especially satisfying use of fingers in the air as if they are playing piano keys, matched perfectly in time with the music.  All three dancers, Ellena Takos, Alexzandra Sarmiento and Cat Cogliandro are compelling, expressive and dance their choreography with precise musicality and passion.

“Stompin’ at the Savoy” by Christopher Liddell was a fabulous romp in swing dance time. Both Erika Black and Mr. Liddell are wise and gorgeous performers.

“Fever” by Sue Samuels made me think that Mr. Nathan Norrington was possibly the luckiest man on 9th Avenue this weekend!  Three beautiful women, Brianne White, Ena Hashimoto and Aubrey Hensley, were his for the taking – Ms. Samuels heightened this with an ending where the ladies carry a sheepishly pleased and waving Mr. Norrington.

“Trinity Undercover” by Merete Muenter is a Jerome Robbins styled play on Charlie’s Angels with a smooth criminal (Darin Chumbley) managing to dance the entire piece holding a money-bag.  The music, a cappella vocals imitating instruments, by John Pointer, is as impressive as the dance. Both ride a fast paced wave of precision.

Bob Boross’s “Love Come Quick” is a classic Fosse, strong finish to the evening. The work has a big cast of good dancers who clearly love to dance. 

Next year, go enjoy a Festival that is chock full of satisfying kicks, turns and jumps – the joys of dancing are clear, and the reasons we continue doing it were on stage for all to see.


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