“Take Charge” choreographed by Cat Manturuk. Photo: Jan La Salle
Jazz Choreography Enterprise’s Spring 2022 Jazz Dance Project was the perfect way to celebrate the organization’s 15th-anniversary. After two years of virtual shows, Jazz Choreography Enterprises was back: in-person and better than ever.
Ranging in dance genres and highlighting choreographers of all ages, including Kayhla Lewis at just 17 years old, the show reflected the breadth and heart of the organization.
Founded in 2007 by Marian Hyun and Merete Muenter, Jazz Choreography Enterprises (JCE) has worked to provide performance opportunities for jazz dance, emphasizing the richness that jazz dance embodies.
The night began with the perfect opener, “Midnight Moonlight” choreographed by Austin Marquez. Sweet and infectious throughout, the dancers’ smooth movements, bursts of lively gestures, and hints of ballroom dance lit up the stage. Wearing bright-colored skirts, the dancers cheered one another on, bringing us to a club-like setting: fun, youthful, and carefree.
Throughout the night, the stage continued to transform into different worlds. From a stroll in a late-night street in “Sunset and the Mockingbird” by Jaime Shannon, to an Egyptian village with a flying magic carpet in “Caravantasy” by Jeff Davis, to a fierce movie-like scene with “Now” by Danielle Diniz. Some works took us to more intimate spaces like Teresa Perez Ceccon’s “Cassava Root” and “Lighter Than Sound” by Vanessa Martínez de Baños and Ashley Carter, while others coupled a melding of dance genres like “Take Charge” by Cat Manturuk, which integrated breakdancing and jazz influences.
“Malemphis,” danced and choreographed by Fatima Logan-Alston, felt straight out of a movie. A single spotlight radiated on her, and as she started to move, it was mesmerizing. If the music was a jazz band, Logan-Alston was the lead singer. Her body sang one long melody, notes moving like butter. Even with the physical distance between her and the audience, she immersed us in her quiet but powerful thoughts.
Two of my favorite pieces were swing numbers, which both took us back in time to a high-energy nightlife. “Kilowatt Stomp” by Tony Fraser and Jaime Shannon was an exciting duet, wowing the audience with their cool exterior, sharp details, and spirited lifts that would come out of nowhere. “Hoe Down” by Spencer Pond took swing dance partnering to a whole new level by establishing a trio that listened so well to each other. All three dancers, Spencer Pond, Victoria Sames, and Rafal Pustelny, were musical in every way, playing with polyrhythms and embodying every note.
But the worlds that I could not get enough of were the ones created by the younger dancers in “Always” by Kayhla Lewis and “Peanuts Take the Music” by Broadway and alum of So You Think You Can Dance by Jess LeProtto. “Always” was a groovy tap number and these young dancers did not miss a single beat. Moving as one unit, these dancers were stars, effortlessly navigating through Lewis’s intelligent choreography. Their world was large and energetic, and I desperately wanted to be a part of it.
“Peanuts Take the Music” featuring the Steps on Broadway Conservatory Program students had me second-guessing the young ages of these dancers. They were professional, sleek, and the coolest kids around. Jess LeProtto’s choreography took the audience straight into a Broadway musical. The dancers’ energy colored the stage even before they took off their black shirts revealing bright-colored tops in the middle of the piece. I was addicted to every detail: from the little head bops to the dynamic jumps. This work ended the show, leaving the audience lingering in the joy and wonderment that JCE has brought to the dance world for the past 15 years.