On October 22nd and 23rd, Jazz Choreography Enterprises (JCE) successfully held the Fall 2022 JCE Jazz Dance Project. This year’s celebration felt extra special because JCE is finally back on stage after a two-year pandemic hiatus. The Jazz Project showcased a wide range of jazz dance styles to celebrate JCE’s 15th anniversary and was curated by the powerhouse duo of Merete Muenter and Marian Hyun.
Merete and Marian are the Artistic Directors of Jazz Choreography Enterprises. Merete, a lifelong dancer, performed professionally in many roles and venues before shifting gears to work on the production side. Merete gravitated toward jazz dance because of the risk-taking element embodied in it. “It almost feels like the sky is the limit in that it opens up endless storytelling possibilities,” she said. She also appreciates how jazz dance allows individuality within the community. Marian, on the other hand, is a student of dance and found her love for jazz dance in her 40s when taking classes with choreographers including Luigi and Bob Audy. The joy she had in classes with these jazz dance masters sparked her profound interest in the art form. Both Marian and Merete believe that jazz dance continues to be relevant in American life. “Jazz is around us, and people don’t always realize it,” said Merete. “You see it on social media and even in TV commercials.” “You can see the jazz roots of hip-hop,” said Marian. And because jazz dance is unique to American culture, this great gift that originated in the African-American community deserves to be seen by live audiences.
Innovative Submission and Forward-Thinking Curation
Marian and Merete strongly encourage dance artists to submit innovative choreography. “I don’t want to get stuck in the past,” Marian said. Jazz dance has evolved for the past hundred years and should continue to do so. They welcome submissions of various kinds of jazz dance such as contemporary, lyrical, Latin, early jazz, and hip-hop influenced styles. When curating submissions, they first look at the quality of the work. Is there a consistent theme? Is the choreography at a professional level? Does the piece seem final or still under development? If the answers are “yes”, they question different attributes. Is it innovative? Is it creative? Is this something that tells a story from a different angle? Is it thoughtfully made? And, of course, they consider whether the piece has jazz elements such as movements originating from the pelvis, syncopated rhythm, and body isolations. Once in a while, Marian and Merete might take a risk and present an outstanding contemporary piece even if they’re not sure it’s jazz. They believe that if the piece is remarkable, the audience deserves a chance to see the work and decide for themselves. After all, jazz dance continues to evolve and push boundaries.
Creating and Expanding Space
Finally, the JCE Jazz Dance Project hopes to keep the jazz dance legacy alive in this day and age by providing opportunity, variety, and entertainment for the jazz dance community. It creates opportunities by holding space for a jazz dance artist to submit creations that are rarely showcased on a concert stage. By presenting such works on stage, the audience also has the opportunity to see jazz choreography that is underrepresented in the mainstream media. Moreover, the Jazz Project is committed to showcasing a variety of jazz dances with the hope that the audience finds the dances accessible and entertaining. Therefore, the audience can always expect to see and enjoy numerous classic and contemporary jazz works on stage that are vibrant, innovative, and inspiring at the JCE Jazz Dance Project.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.