Photo: Galia Abramson
This year JCE continued its ongoing partnership with Quinnipiac University to present a “Signature Experience” seminar on September 30th for the school’s honors program students. These seminars aim to provide students with theoretical and experiential exploration—in this case, JCE helped to craft a course illuminating the history of Jazz dance, culminating in a dance class led by JCE staff and a performance of the JCE Jazz Dance Project.
In preparation for the dance class, students read excerpts from Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches, edited by Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver. Additionally, students received a timeline of the history of Jazz dance, along with video links to see the genre’s evolution from having roots in African vernacular dance in the early 1900s to its more theatrical and technical form in the present.
As part of the student’s exploration of Jazz dance, they participated in a dance class taught by JCE President and teaching artist Marian Hyun and JCE Secretary and professional dancer/choreographer, Merete Muenter. Marian warmed the dancers up teaching them about the influence of ballet on traditional Jazz choreography. Students learned about isolations in choreography and how to move to the beat of the music. The students learned a short routine including 60s era dance moves such as “The Motown,” “The Swim,” and “The Monkey.”
Students then got a taste of what it’s like to audition for a performance from Merete, who taught them a fast and more theatrical sequence set to music from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
After the students learned and performed the second routine, they watched videos of different forms of vernacular dance, such as African dance, lindy hop and swing, and hip-hop. They discussed what sets American jazz dance apart from other genres, and the legacy it leaves for newer forms of contemporary vernacular dace.
Quinnipiac student Grace Riccioni said of the course, “It was fascinating to not only read about how cultures influenced the development of jazz dance, but to experience it for myself.” And Maily Tran said it changed her preconception of jazz dance: “The class provided real-life applications of descriptions of jazz dance that were provided in the book. Before I signed up for the course, my presumption was that jazz dance consisted of a lot of ‘jazz hands.’ But, there’s so much more to this dancing style like syncopations with the rhythms and isolation of body movements. I was able to develop a better understanding of the true complexity and beauty of jazz dance.”
JCE is proud to partner with Quinnipiac, and thanks the students for their enthusiasm and participation! To find out more about JCE’s education and outreach efforts, please visit our About Us page.
Galia Abramson is the External Affairs Associate at Library of America, a nonprofit publishing company, and a Junior Board Member of Jazz Choreography Enterprises. Previously she worked at WNET New York Public Media in Community Relations and Development. Prior to working at WNET, she was Development Operations Coordinator at the Guggenheim Museum. Galia graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from NYU with a major in History.