“Identity Check: Brown Paper Bag Test” choreographed by Kavin T. Grant. Photo: Jan La Salle
A review of the New York Jazz Choreography Project – April 2018
New York Jazz Choreography Project once again, takes its audience on a ride through the ever-evolving styles of Jazz dance. There were moments of dance happening “for us” like Find Your H A P P Y, reasonsLegacy, Well, Git It! and Pas de Drag, with healthy doses of giggles and applause. Meanwhile, there were moments of dance that were happening “to us” like Inner City Blues: Excerpt 4, Tremors, and This Way, echoing daily interactions in our personal lives, drawing the audience’s intimate self to the space.
Robust lyrics, upbeat sounds and fresh moves highlighted Tiffanie Carson’s choreography of Find Your H A P P Y. The Shenandoah Conservatory Dance Ensemble, in red and white, embodied the jam, with isolated shoulder movements, fluid improvisation embellishing hip hop styles, waving and popping, enthusiastic smiles, clapping combinations, and a crescendo of partnering.
Brass sounds filled the room in Daniel Gwirtzman’s duet, Well, Git It! Dancers permeated the stage with their playful presence in a variety show atmosphere. A real Tom and Jerry, tit for tat as the two protagonists, covered in gold sequins show jackets and black sparkling high waters, pranced around the stage, swooping under and over one another, ending with one plunging into the other’s arm.
Talissa Bavaresco’s X I I blends classical dance with streaks of parallel leg lines, serene partnering and multiple level changes. Meanwhile, Rhythmic Current, Pt. 1 by Eveline Kleinjans, starts with silence while inviting various syncopated hand movements and continuous directional changes.
Rush Hour Rendezvous by Mallory Pettee, with its big band sounds and layered transitions, complemented the large cast in this production-like number. The movers, dressed in onesies, floral patterned dresses, and khaki pants, demonstrate sharp movements as knees rip from right to left, males and females were grouped together on opposite sides as though plotting a standoff with the audience, partners bound together, then stretched apart whisking through windows, vigorously clapping and stomping.
Identity Check: Brown Paper Bag Test takes a more personal look into relationships, from all angles. Kavin T. Grant’s work has a tendency to leave the audience feeling tender yet schooled, through sentimental sounds, elegant costuming and a cultural aesthetic emulating African-American society. Dancers Anysia Kelly, Zakiyyah Meadows, Nayaa Opong-Nyantekyi, and Aanyse Pettiford-Chandler, in this flavorful score of vocal hums and trumpets, magnify the sass in their switch, the angst of confronting, and the “oh no you didn’t” head snap.
Pas de Drag by Spencer Pond was a nonstop fool-headed ride from beginning to end. Pond lavishly captivates the audience with his cheeky facial expressions and scrunched up lips. MacKenzie Friedmann’s character, dressed like a sleazy salesman yet charming, with her side smile, had the audience in a gut laughing roar. This duo brought a comical story of co-dependency, mockery and sexual stereotypes to light, yet replete with subliminal messaging.
Cool Cat by Daniel Gold filled the stage with jivin’ sounds and muscle shirts. Dancers with jutted pelvises, snapping fingers, sensual partnering, swirling hips, and low white lighting set a smooth tone. Meanwhile, a mesh of jive, techno, and hip hop embraces the stage in reasonsLegacy by Linda Kuo, an amalgamation of waving, house dance and breaking in this light, playful remix.
A rage of passion, Tremors begins with mimicking movements of anger, jabbing arm gestures, and heavy footing, desperately expressing the need to be heard and understood. Violin and experimental sounds of male and female voices arguing are depicted through an all-female cast. A true contemporary jazz piece exteriorizing the ups and downs of separation.
Michelle Isaac brings Marvin Gaye’s Save The Children to life in Inner City Blues, Excerpt 4, an exquisitely crafted blend of contemporary and African dance. Dancers dressed in school uniforms, enacting bountiful movements depicting the African diaspora are speaking the story of youth while soloist Kenya Gibson, in a burgundy gown represents the entanglement of both tragedy and hope.
Dancers of the Steps Conservatory Program groove through This Way by choreographer Al Blackstone. In a piece that oozes love, sensuality and inner beauty, from the gentle caressing of the neck, sealed eyes, and soft smiles, this trio couldn’t help but bring a “feel good” atmosphere to the space.
Joey Rosario’s And Just Like That shares what it means when you find yourself at the right place at the right time. Our protagonist locks eyes with a passer-by, and sparks fly as the corps and duo build on the stage like fireworks amidst vigorous acrobatic partnering.
Jazz Choreography Enterprises, Inc., continues to curate shows that preserve the legacy of Jazz dance, supporting choreographers and performers to continue expanding and sharing their story. The collaborative efforts made by JCE allow artist and audience access to fresh perspectives. It is always a treat to see how the organization will continue to expand the boundaries. Stay tuned for their next show!
Dominique Robinson is an American producer, choreographer, and dance educator. Robinson received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Choreography from East Carolina University and a Master of Arts in Dance Education from New York University. Robinson teaches for ABT’s outreach program Project Plié, Cynthia King Dance Studio, and Dance Gap Year. She is the founder of PIZARTS ‘Dance Hub for Entrepreneurial Innovation,’ a company that offers gap year programs, international residencies, and volunteer teach beach retreat trips, for teachers and artists who desire to dance and travel abroad.Dominique has been published in “Dance World Magazine,” and online sites Travel Access Project and Jazz Choreography Enterprises. Inc.