Artistic Directors Marian Hyun and Merete Muenter of Jazz Choreography Enterprises, Inc. brought fourteen pieces to explosive life on October the 28th. The jazz idiom stood proud as the concert opened with a recreation of the late, great Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ Man reconstructed by Lloyd Culbreath. Black hats, white gloves, signature wrist rolls, snaps, isolations, and complex polyrhythms set the standard high for the rest of the show.
Fosse’s ability to craft full ideas within a small window of time is a difficult feat, and many of the works that followed lacked the same kind of completion. Rather, they were moments to consider, breaths of fresh air, meant more to be sensational and dazzling than anything else. All works that night pushed the envelope for high energy expenditure, tapping into the acrobatic side of jazz’s varied history in Lascaux choreographed by Muenter with high jumps, lifts, and tumbling; Five Guys Name Moe by Richard J. Hinds, exemplifying the rigor of split leaps, multiple pirouettes, and more tumbling; and a daring work of pure strength with Sue Samuels’ Blackbird wherein one dancer was kept aloft the entire piece through sheer force of will from all her supporting dancers.
Contemporary works graced the stage with a duet by Kavin T. Grant, Gravity…War on Love stood out as the example of how far two dancers can push their bodies within the confines of their own bones and muscles, while still being able to pull back for delicacy and deliberation of eye contact and caresses. Bottom of the River drew on the power of the spiritual, reaching back to the black roots of jazz dance. The clawing actions of the hands over the face, to the sky, and then between each dancer searching for succor and getting none; the audience drew in deeper with each ragged breath.
The classics were revived with the syrupy sweet work by Jeff Davis and his partner Emily Vetsch in That’s All. Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron would have been proud with the adoring looks, the gentle lifts and swirls, and the intimate touches. I Met a Girl by Robert Audy brought verve and simplicity of movement back to life with this character solo, brief in delivery but full and fun. Social dancing jumped in with the collaborative Metaphysics of Jazz which blended hip hop and swing to an uneven mix, but definitely fit the bill for excitement. The show couldn’t have finished properly without someone dancing to “Sing Sing Sing,” and Liz Piccoli’s Big Band Tribute to James Emerson Adams brought all the works together in a strong display of contemporary movement, highly technical dancers, and a flashy finish.
As the entire cast came out for bows, questions arose: was there more here? How do these pieces fit together? A vignette, a smile, amazing technique; how does one curate entirely disparate works? A stronger connection between the pieces, maybe even less pieces and more time spent within each work could make an already powerful night dazzle brighter.
Dance Photo: Jan La Salle