THE NEW YORK CHOREOGRAPHY PROJECT OCTOBER 2017
Saturday, October 28th, 2017 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, October 29th, 2017 at 4 p.m. – a talkback with the choreographers follows the Sunday performance
Photo: Jan La Salle
Marian Hyun has studied jazz and ballet in New York with Luigi, Bob Audy, Ed Kresley, Shirley Bassat, Julia Dubno, and wonderful teachers in Paris, France, Susan Sparks and Frédéric Lazzarelli. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she was a freelance writer and a writing instructor at the New School before enrolling in the Dance Education Lab (DEL) at 92nd Street Y. Since then she has taught dance to people of all ages, from two-year-old pre-ballerinas to senior citizen jazz buffs in various New York studios and community centers. She has choreographed for the New York Jazz Choreography Project, Choreographer’s Canvas, the Fridays at Noon Marathon at 92nd Street Y, and the Comedy in Dance Festival at Triskelion Arts. In May 2007 at New Dance Group, Marian produced the first performance of the New York Jazz Choreography Project, a showcase devoted to jazz dance. It sold out. Subsequent performances of the Jazz Project have been produced semiannually by Jazz Choreography Enterprises, Inc., a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization established in 2007 to promote the creation of original jazz choreography. Marian is the president and co-artistic director of Jazz Choreography Enterprises.
Merete Muenter is a founding member and co-Artistic Director of Jazz Choreography Enterprises, Inc. Choreography credits: Off-Broadway – The Golden Bride (Chita Rivera Award Nomination), Amerike – The Golden Land, The Megile of Itzik Manger, and Lies My Father Told Me (The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene), Eddie and the Palaceades (Midtown International Theatre Festival “MITF”), The King of Second Avenue (New Repertory Theatre), South Pacific (Lancaster Opera House), Sherlock Holmes – The Early Years (New York Music Theater Festival). Director/choreographer credits: Chicago, The Who’s Tommy and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Woodstock Playhouse), They Walk Among Us (MITF – Award for Best Choreography). Assistant Director credits: World AIDS Day Gala (Capetown, South Africa, Jesus Christ Superstar (European Tour – Director, Baayork Lee).
Who Inspires our Choreographers?
We thought you might enjoy finding out who influenced and inspired some of our choreographers in this edition of the New York Jazz Choreography Project.
LIFE is a piece I created in 2012 after hearing a music track titled “The Snare” by Zero dB. This jazz fusion music style was popular in the 1990s and the genre is known as Broken Beat Jazz. What appealed to me was the insistent drum cadence (which to me suggested a relentless pressure), the harsher electronic sounds, and the overall orchestration of how the track develops. These qualities reminded me of the relentless pressure we are under in daily life, the expectation to compete and be superlative, and the weariness that underlies our forced determination.
A lot of the movement in this piece is inspired by Dean Collins. Dean Collins was an American lindy hop dancer/choreographer and innovator of swing dance. He worked on 38 films throughout the 1930’s and 40’s in LA. Collins developed a specific smooth style of lindy hop that is featured in a majority of his films. His signature style is often still referred to today as “Hollywood style Lindy Hop.” When Tony and I were developing the content for our piece, we played a lot with the smooth, stretchy, counterbalanced technique that defined Dean Collin’s style.
During my time in college I performed in a concert choir and a small jazz choir which helped (unknowingly at the time) to inform my sensibilities of musicality and timing. We particularly were influenced by the vocalese style of jazz singing which was then popularized by The Manhattan Transfer. Our director told us to investigate earlier groups such as the Ames and Mills Brothers, and I have enjoyed listening to this music ever since. The first time I heard “My Walkin’ Stick,” I knew I wanted to dance or at least choreograph a dance to it. A couple years later I was teaching a very small jazz class with a boy and a girl and this music seemed a perfect fit for their personalities. It was great fun to redo this piece for JCE a few years ago and add another level of partnering with some lifts. Now it seems even more fun to sit back and let someone else dance!
I grew up listening to big band music with my grandfather…some of his favorites were Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. The music just became integral to my sensibilities, and for this piece I wanted to try to embody the soul of the instruments. Dance inspiration is definitely Ann Miller in “Too Darn Hot” (I love her flirty energy and fierce command of the room) and of course Cyd Charisse, especially in “Meet Me in Las Vegas” – I’m inspired by the comedic approach, story-telling and partnering fluidity in this one.
My mentor, Christian Von Howard, was my first jazz teacher in New York. He bridges jazz with modern dance beautifully with his company, The Von Howard Project.
This is what The Verdon Fosse Legacy LLC told us about Bob Fosse’s inspiration for “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man”:
Bob Fosse choreographed “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” as a tribute to his own personal dance icon, Fred Astaire. As the Act II opener from 1978’s musical revue, DANCIN,’ “Dancin’ Man” honors the charm and elegance of Astaire and celebrates the golden age of the Hollywood musical. But the ensemble production number also highlights a poignant, universal sentiment that lies at the heart of every dancer—despite all of the sacrifices (physical, emotional, professional), the dancer loves to dance and, while both the art form and the career are ephemeral, that passion is everlasting.
Two songs by Lauryn Hill really resonated with me. The first song, “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind,” really inspired me because at the time, I was feeling overwhelmed with things going on in my life. I was trying to find peace in knowing that everything would work out and that God was in control. The song really mirrored my thoughts, so I felt it would be a therapeutic experience to create a piece to it. Shortly after hearing the first song, I heard another song of Hill’s called “Water,” which is about feeling cleansed and at peace with your life. Although I didn’t feel at peace at the time, I knew I wanted to come to a place where I could relate to the words of the song and get through my current situation. Now looking back at the creative process that I had with this piece, I know I was really vulnerable and honest about how I was feeling when I created it. I think that is the purpose of dance: using movement to express our innermost thoughts, which could help others. As I explained the meaning of this piece to my dancers, it gave me a chance to let them connect their lives to the piece and to be vulnerable, and I think it brought us closer. Now that I’ve come to a place where I feel renewed and that I am doing my best, even if I don’t have it all together, I can truly relate to “Water.” Life is not about being perfect, it’s about trying to be the best you that God made you to be.
I have always been fascinated by the use of artwork for communication. These cave paintings inspired me to create this communication in a three-dimensional way by moving dancers in space and creating the images with their bodies.