by Dominique Robinson, M.A.
Jazz Choreography Enterprises Inc., (JCE) gave the public a showcase filled with movement, music and storytelling. Choreography by Audra Bryant, Kenya Joy Gibson, Mary Lynne McAnally, Sharlane Conner, Bryan Menjivar, Bobby Morgan, Kristen Brooks Sandler, Guy Mannick, Julia Halpin, Svetlana Khoruzhina, Fatima Logan, Kyle Weiler, Alexis Robbins, Adrián Aguirre, Jeff Davis and Sekou McMiller, was performed for The New York Jazz Choreography Project, presented at the Salvatore Capezio Theater at Peridance. Works displayed kinetic and social elements of jazz dance demonstrating vernacular, classical and contemporary street idioms.
McAnally’s reminiscence of legend Bob Fosse in “Hats Off To Fosse,” brings about classical broadway jazz, with dancers posing on black chairs mimicking his famed isolated wrist and hand motifs. Weiler’s, “Sweet Tooth,” was a quintessential depiction of jazz at its earliest stages. Choreography included ‘Patting Juba’ gestures, rapid footwork, dynamic level changes and playful rhetoric showing buck, wing and jig traits. On the contrary, Morgan’s contemporary jazz work “Dress,” included aspects of popping and waving, that flowed in and out of sharp hits of the elbows and knees. Though Morgan’s combination of music and choreographic theme made pinpointing aesthetics of jazz difficult, still the work was captivating and complemented the score’s instrumental layers.
“She’s in Line,” by Gibson brought a vigorous female presence to the stage. Tribal drum beats and house sounds were led by leaps and robust arm patterns. The work exhibited both independence (with a soloist beginning and ending the piece) and unity (with dancers traveling throughout space, projecting long lines and lifted chests). Robbins, contemporary work “Please Be Kind I’m A Mess,” seemed to be a mesh of life’s uncomfortable dealings and deadpan humor. The use of suspenders served as a costume and prop, as dancers manipulated straps like strings of a marionette doll. Purposeful unsteadiness of balance and shrugged shoulders played fully to this pitiful sense of self satire.
“Path To Golden City,” by Logan, had a southern and blues charm. Dancers embodied the lyrics using fluid motion, fanning of the hands and heavy flow with limbs toward the ground. Logan’s work amplified the stage with a sense of spiritual fulfillment and soul-searching. Meanwhile, “Swift Impulse,” by Aguirre carries a cool and serene energy even during its climactic moments. There was a vast use of space, periods of stillness, yet outbursts of leaps and turns to the pre-recorded sounds of a scatting vocalist and trumpet duo.
Theatrical piece “Dancing Around the Subject,” by Sandler and Mannick, was a playful and flirtatious trio performance of cat and mouse with schoolhouse characters. The dancers timing was cohesive and their chemistry radiated the stage in moments of exaggerated expression, quirky gesture s and in your face silliness. “Something Wicked…,” by Davis, had a well-crafted storyline. The theatrical work with painted faces, props and sounds of thunder, contributed to the gothic carnival like setting. Nina Simone, ‘I Put A Spell On You,’ plays as the once frightened protagonist, dressed in pink, dances in trance. Unravelling out of a large green scarf, she begins to reveal a dark energy. Her appearance (now in a gold dress) and effort change, demonstrated a more confident presence. Davis’ choreographic direction and presentation of dancers delivered an alluring performance.
McMiller’s, “Palladium: the Chase,” was an exhilarating duet with influential Afro-Caribbean roots, performed to the sounds of Latin big band arrangements. The duos movement included isolated torsos, complex lifts, quick footwork and sustained arm poses, ending the show with a high-powered finished.
The New York Jazz Choreography Project included a spectrum of jazz dance styles. Some brought a nostalgic presence with the classics while others infused various styles to form theatrical and contemporary works. Choreographers shared clean, well-rehearsed compositions filled with theatrics, strength, technique, and abstract anecdotes. Jazz dance, conceived of personal expression and response, makes it a form that is freeing and open to interpretation, a detail quite familiar in the diversity of JCE’s jazz dance showcase.