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“Love Shack” choreographed by Taylor Gordon. Photo: Jan La Salle

On October 28th and 29th, 2023, Jazz Choreography Enterprises (JCE) presented their biannual JCE Jazz Dance Project at the KnJ Theater at Peridance. The Fall 2023 concert featured fourteen pieces with a talkback following Sunday’s performance. The audience tasted a wide array of jazz idioms, including but not limited to Afro-Latin, contemporary, swing, and musical theater.

Co-Artistic Director of JCE, Marian Hyun, expressed in her opening remarks that this concert was notable for its emphasis on youth. Five of the fourteen dance works were choreographed on youth ensembles, including IFE Youth Dance Theater and Harlem School of the Arts, and on students from the Steps on Broadway Conservatory and Salve Regina University. Additionally, 17-year-old Mariah Gomez, a dancer with IFE Youth Dance Theater, created and danced her own solo Con Todo Mi Alma y Corazón (With All of My Heart and Soul), which was second on the program. It brought an emotional expressiveness to the concert, especially from her articulate hands and upper body gestures. As Marian Hyun stated, these powerful young artists are “the future of jazz.”

Each dance brought the audience into different worlds. Some pieces offered upbeat, staccato, and electrifying renditions of jazz dance, such as Taylor Gordon’s Love Shack, Trinity Leite’s Cat and Mouse, and Lisa Harvie’s To the Nines, which featured the Steps on Broadway Conservatory seniors. Other pieces brought a more contemporary dance feeling, stripped of jazz shoes and sharp counts. Contemporary works included Sam Lobel’s You’ll Never Be and Tommy Scrivens’ Pre Fixe (Excerpts). Both of these dances had a suppleness in the movement that brought a smooth feeling to the concert.

Shany Dagan Kerem’s BaSalon (At the Living Room) was coy, smooth, and playful. Each movement dripped into the next, the dancers riding the waves of the dance with ease. Despite the dancers’ strong technique, they danced with a calm that brought them even more command of each moment. An unexpected moment occurred when one of the four dancers entered wearing tap shoes, while two others wore socks and one danced in soft jazz shoes. It was a playful mesh of different styles, which showcased their similarities and complemented one another.

Kiley Corcoran’s Who Would’ve Thought began on a dreamy note, with a blue-lit stage and most of the dancers slowly shifting from side to side in the upstage. One soloist danced, until the music abruptly shifted to a more upbeat song and the lights turned yellow. The group snapped out of their dazed, dreamlike floating and danced in a percussive unison full of jumps and turns. The dance fluidly returned to the opening dreamy mood, suggesting that the soloist dancer could be trying to break through to her imagination of faster energies.

Jaime Shannon’s Sly Gaze was smooth and playful. The quartet danced with a loping weightiness that complemented their interactions with each other and the audience. Each dancer was expressive, smiling brightly like the motif of their pastel shirts as they circled and partnered one another throughout the stage.

Cory “Nova” Villegas’ Que Linda Es (Oh, How Pretty) was an explosive Afro-Latin jazz work featuring seven artists of Soul Dance Co.: The Soul Experience, who moved like dancing flames. They were dressed in bright red tops and long, red pants with fringe. The fringe highlighted the dancers’ expressiveness with their hips as they moved, as well as their beautiful jumps, turns, and leg fans. Que Linda Es carried a celebratory energy, with even the subtlest of moments carrying clear communication amongst the cast.

David Cartahena Lee’s False Narratives opened with a short dialogue amongst two dancers speaking of attending a party. The dance followed the journey of one dancer, perhaps carrying the role of an outcast, as she navigated her way through a group who mostly danced in unison. The movement was extremely musical, as the group danced in precision to the music’s steady, pulsing beat. The soloist, who remained true to herself throughout the work, concluded the work by exiting with another dancer, who says, “Let’s go.”

Mia De Franco’s For the Love (Excerpts) highlighted corporate greed along with the importance of not losing sight of what is important in life. This was danced by the eight artists of the IFE Youth Dance Theater. The maturity of the dancers was incredible to communicate such a narrative. The dancers moved in ways that represented corporate greed; rubbing their fingers together to indicate the desire for money, pretending to take notes, and pretending to type on a computer during a “9 to 5 job.” At other times they danced more abstractly, their large movements expressing the appreciation of just moving and being together. This was a standout work of the evening.

Jeff Davis’ BiRDLAND was an electrifying classic jazz piece that brought the audience to a party. The dancers were dressed in elegant dresses, collared shirts and long pants. One dancer carried a flashlight in the opening, and in the dance’s conclusion. A resonating image appeared when a dancer in a green dress sat on a throne made from another dancer lying on their back and extending their hands and legs to create a seat. The piece had a regality and confidence which resonated throughout the work.

Robert Redick’s Affirmation was another standout work, set on a cast of ten dancers from Harlem School of the Arts. Affirmation carried an emotional mood, as the dancers expressively depicted their desires – through solos, duets and group unison – to “count their blessings,” as quoted from Eryn Allen Kane’s music “Have Mercy.” This work was strong in message and movement, with memorable images of partnering and suspension throughout the artists’ fluid dancing.

The October 2023 JCE Jazz Dance Project was an exciting concert, offering jazz dance in a variety of styles. JCE continually carries its mission forward of bringing many forms of jazz dance to New York City and offering a strong platform for creators and artists to show their work.

Kristen Hedberg

Kristen Hedberg

Kristen Hedberg was born and raised in Richmond, VA. She earned her BFA in Contemporary Dance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she was dual-enrolled with The Martha Graham School during her senior year. Since graduating in 2017, Kristen has worked as a freelance dancer and writer in New York, NY. Kristen is currently a Company Dancer with Jon Lehrer Dance Company and Faustine Lavie Dance Project. She self-publishes dance reviews on her website,  kristenhedberg.org. Kristen has also been a Writing Contributor for Seasons 2 and 3 of OUR PATHS. Through movement and writing, Kristen aims to share the joy of dance with others.

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