“#10” choreographed by Spencer Pond. Photo: Jan La Salle
Review: The JCE Jazz Dance Project, October 2018
The JCE Jazz Dance Project returned this October to once again put jazz dance back in the spotlight, presenting a program of varied pieces that showcased the full potential of this diverse and rich dance form.
Both past and present forms of jazz dance were given the chance to shine here, including such compelling contemporary numbers as the powerful trio “Quintessence” by Cat Manturuk and “Switch Up,” a group number by Elaine Tripoulas whose dynamic movements expertly played with varied levels. More classic jazz choreography was on display with Andrea Palesh’s punchy and charismatic “Black and Gold” and Rebekka Nodhturft’s “Date Night,” whose choreography combined a sense of wittiness with airy lyricism in its swirling turns and sweeping extensions. Both numbers relied on classic jazz language, but also contained unexpected surprises – a split-second costume change and a twist ending – that injected an element of fun into the numbers’ more traditional styling.
This sense of playfulness continued throughout the evening with the program’s duets. Tony Fraser and Jaime Shannon’s Lindy Hop piece “Small Talk” encapsulated both the joy and intricacy of the social dance style, and its bouncing choreography flowed well between the style’s dazzling tricks and rhythmic steps. “Cheeky Bastards,” choreographed by Gierre J. Godley, packed nuanced and precise movements into its smooth choreography while giving performers Alex Cottone and Eury German the freedom to have fun with their characters – and let them live up to the piece’s name. Spencer Pond’s duet “#10,” meanwhile, felt fresh and unconventional as it used the language of jazz dance to mirror the complicated rhythms and alternating peaceful and frenetic sections of a classical piano piece by Frederic Chopin.
Another innovatively captivating piece was Bobby Morgan’s group number “Luv Dancin’,” which combined jazz, voguing, hip hop and other street dance styles to project its funky and lighthearted vibe. The undulating “push-pull” of Morgan’s nuanced choreography brought a simultaneous complexity and fluidity to the movements; a solo section performed confidently by Morgan was especially enthralling. This easy, “grooving” feeling also emanated from Barbara Angeline’s “Doin’ My Jazz,” as solo dancer Imani Shivers commanded the stage through strong musicality and deceptively understated movements. There was no need for flashy tricks here – a simple, well-timed extension of the arm proved just as gripping.
While the evening mostly consisted of professional dancers, the Jazz Dance Project also included student numbers that showcased the style’s bright future. Sal Pernice’s “What I Like About You” was performed by students of all ages whose performances reflected the joy of jazz dance, while students from Koin & Co. brought hard-hitting movements and personality to their performance of Ali Koinoglou’s “Dog Days.” One particular highlight was Mindy Jackson’s “Fresh Meet,” a precise and rhythmic piece performed by students from the Steps on Broadway Professional Training Program. The piece felt casual yet dynamic, with constantly flowing movements that were technically detailed but maintained a pedestrian ease. Much like the professional numbers alongside them, these numbers showed just how much variation jazz dance can have – and what a pleasure it can be.
Alison Durkee is a New York-based journalist and arts critic whose writing has been published in such publications as Mic, City Guide NY, Exeunt Magazine, HowlRound, Stage Buddy, OffOffOnline, and Critical Dance. She currently serves as the Features Editor for London-based theatre website Everything Theatre and as a political news journalist for Vanity Fair, and is a member of the Outer Critics Circle. In addition to her writing work, Alison is a dancer and her work in the arts includes administrative roles with HERE Arts Center and the Theatre Museum. She holds degrees in Theatre Studies from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where her research focused on the intersection of musical theatre, history, and nostalgia.