Following the performance of the Jazz Choreography Project on Sunday April 22nd, choreographers Kimberly Rose Dooley, Megan Doyle, Whitney Laurent, Christopher Liddell, Matt Pardo, Tyrell V. Rolle, and Lauren Ashlee Small remained for an extra half hour to discuss their work and answer questions from the audience in a talk back moderated by Gregory Harris.

For Ms. Laurent, the performance was the debut for her newly formed dance company, the Whitney Nichole Dance Outlet. For Mr. Liddell it was the fifth year anniversary of his choreography debut at the first performance of the New York Jazz Choreography Project.

The choreographers fielded many different questions about the creative process and offered their different views and methods about creating dance. They also related how they felt their work fit into the world jazz dance.

Ms. Laurent, Mr. Liddell, and Mr. Pardo said that they drew all of their ideas from songs they liked. Mr. Pardo even said that he “over listens” to music until he can find an idea in the song to work with.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ms. Doyle and Ms. Small said that they prefer to work with an idea first and find music to fit it. In a similar vein, Mr. Rolle said that he likes to choreograph specifically to his dancers’ bodies and what they are capable of doing.

Ms. Dooley provided an entirely different approach, explaining that her piece was developed largely through improvisation. She worked with the music, developing the movements and ideas at the same time.

Interestingly, whether a choreographer began with music or an idea did not determine how much they strove to connect with the audience. While all of the choreographers obviously hoped that the audience would enjoy and be moved by their pieces, some emphasized it more than others.

Mr. Liddell emphasized his musical theater background, saying that his work is all about the audience. He also said that he has to feel a connection to the music he is working with, since he will work with it for long periods during choreography. Ms. Laurent voiced a similar opinion, expressing her desire to connect with the audience. 

Ms. Doyle offered another approach, saying that she mostly works from ideas that interest her. She hopes that the audience will enjoy what she does, but she doesn’t think about them while she is coming up with her piece. Mr. Rolle said that he stresses passion, emotion, and feeling, and that he isn’t very interested in being involved in any work that he can’t connect to.

The choreographers also had different takes on how their pieces related to jazz dance and how they felt about performing at a jazz dance concert. Ms. Doyle said that she “feels safe” performing it. She enjoys it because it is a genre where it is OK to entertain the audience, rather than a style like modern or ballet, which often takes itself more seriously. Mr. Rolle agreed with her, saying simply, “I like to entertain.”

Mr. Pardo brought up another interesting point. His solo, “Life.Long?,” uses a lot of contemporary dance elements, and it is arguable that it might fit in a modern dance concert more comfortably than in a jazz dance concert. The world of jazz dance is continuing to grow and evolve, and part of JCE’s mission is to show the different ways that choreographers approach it. Mr. Pardo felt that his piece was indicative of this growth and is one of the many directions that jazz is taking in the 21st Century.


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