Choreography by guest artist Alexandra Beller and faculty Gay Delanghe, Bill DeYoung, Linda Goodrich, Sandra Torijano, and Robin Wilson
Musical Direction by Ellen Rowe
Graphic Design by Don Hammond, Hammond Designs
February 3 at 7:30 PM
February 4 & 5 at 8 PM
February 6 at 2 PM
background |newsletter | press release | program | photographs
Jazz & Dance|
Jazz, or "African American classical music," was born in New Orleans out of the African American experience and musical traditions of the blues, spirituals, and the jaunty rhythms of the "second line" of New Orleans' funeral marches. These elements came together first as the jagged melodies and rhythms of ragtime music and the piano rolls of Scott Joplin and JellyRoll Morton. This exciting new musical form drew whites to Harlem as the Jazz Age began, as we danced the Charleston and "Ballin' the Jack," women got the right to vote, and we saw the end of the First World War.
Jazz 'danced' its way through the Depression and WWII with the swing music of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, tapping and lindyhopping all along the way. After the war years, we played it 'cool' with Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, and Dave Brubeck as bebop burst forth into the integrationist fifties. We did the mambo and cha-cha-cha as Afrocuban rhythms forever added a "latin beat" as they migrated to the US with Chano Pozo and others. We raised our fists as the Civil Rights movement began; sparking human rights movements across the world and the explosion called the "Sixties" came upon us. With this came radical changes in how we defined ourselves as a nation, the music we listened to, and how we saw dance, performance, and visual art. Jazz music was there, too, with such innovators as John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor pushing the boundaries of tonal exploration.
And through it all, dance has been by its side. First as the social and vernacular dance of African Americans or "jazz dance" and then, as it 'crossed over,' meshing with ballet, tap, and modern dance elements to be the fuel for Broadway choreographers such as Jerome Robbins, Katherine Dunham and Bob Fosse. An improvisational art form at its very core, jazz music has, like its cousins jazz and modern dance, always looked forward while keeping touch with its past and its mission to find one's own voice.
- Robin Wilson
From our Newsletter|
The University Dance Company and the Department of Jazz and Improvisation Studies join forces in February 2005 to present a visual and aural celebration of jazz in a concert entitled, "Jazzin'." Featuring musical jazz favorites along with new compositions played live by the UM Jazz Ensemble, choreography by Dance Department faculty, guest artists, and a re-creation of a dance by Bob Fosse, "Jazzin'" promises to be a collaboration not to miss.
Backstage spoke with three of the artistic forces behind "Jazzin'": Music Director Ellen Rowe (Professor of Jazz and Improvisation Studies), composer Daniel Roumain, and guest choreographer Alexandra Beller to learn more about their approach to this collaboration.
Ellen Rowe, Music Director
What styles of jazz music will be featured in Jazzin'?
ER: We will be including historical pieces made famous by Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, classic jazz from the 1960's, Latin jazz, including a piece by U of M composer and percussionist Roland Vazquez, and more contemporary jazz ensemble compositions by composers such as Maria Schneider.
How was the music chosen?
ER: The choreographers made the final selections from what appealed to them the most - we offered them a selection of composers and styles that we cared about deeply and let them find the specific pieces that spoke to them. From the jazz department's perspective, we were interested in having the many facets of the music represented, from early jazz to "mainstream jazz" of the 50s and 60s to Latin jazz and more contemporary music that has been composed in the last 20 years. We wanted to make sure that the program had musical variety with regards to style and also with regard to instrumentation, so that an audience would not be hearing the same size instrumental ensemble on every piece.
Why is live accompaniment important for both the dancers and jazz students?
ER: Too often students allow the music to become more of an intellectual process and don't get involved enough in the rhythm or physicality of what they are playing. Hopefully the students will understand the connection between music and movement better after they see how the choreographers have realized the music. It also is an important reminder to the students that many forms of early jazz were played specifically for dancing and if the music doesn t make people want to move then it wasn't communicating what it was supposed to!
Daniel Roumain, composer
Roumain completed his doctoral work at the University of Michigan, where he also received his Masters in Music, studying with William Bolcom and Michael Daugherty. Dr. Roumain represents one of the most exciting developments in contemporary music, blending classical and hip-hop idioms and styles. He currently is living, composing, performing, and teaching in Harlem. Roumain was recently profiled in the New York Times on January 2, 2005.
What led you into composition?
DR: I started playing the violin when I was five years old. A string orchestra program was offered in my elementary school. By fifth grade, many of us had already formed our own garage bands, jazz bands, and other smaller musical ensembles. By middle school, many us were playing regularly in the mall, at the roller rink, and some of us even started playing (illegally) in clubs; we were all that good! Composition for me started with writing music for my own band, Marble Frost (can you believe THAT name based on a Dunkin Donut?!). From there, I started writing and arranging music for my high school orchestra, simply trying to make them a bit cooler and more hip.
Where do you find inspiration for your compositions?
DR: I find inspiration for my compositions in every aspect of my life, from my family, friends, my home in Harlem, and sometimes, from my dreams that have not yet come true. My Carnegie Hall debut was an orchestral work entitled Harlem Essay For Orchestra and Digital Audio Tape. I recorded the voices of my Harlem neighbors, including my landlady Ms. Barbara Logan, and set their stories and voices to a live orchestral accompaniment. In this way, the audience could actually hear the stories of Ms. Logan seeing Josephine Baker at the Apollo Theatre for 25¢ and greeting Ralph Ellison every Sunday on his way to do his laundry.
When did you begin composing for dance?
DR: I began composing for dance in high school for my two sisters who were both professional dancers, but didn't begin that work seriously until I reached the University of Michigan. Peter Sparling and I collaborated on a massive work entitled "Seven Enigmas" which debuted in his home, then was performed at his Dance Gallery, and finally at the Power Center a few years ago. That work was the culmination of all that I did at U of M as a composer for dance, having composed music for many of the undergrad/grad students and for several faculty members as well. Everyone at the U of M Dance Department was a supporter of my music, Bill [DeYoung], Gay [Delanghe], Stephen [Rush], Jessica [Fogel], and every visiting artist to that department, helped in shaping the artist that I am now. As the first and only Music Director for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, much more than my ego, THEIR work paid-off in helping me work with the dancers and choreographers I had hoped to work with upon coming to New York.
But most importantly to me, I remember the great hope and confidence and trust Peter had in me, as his student, with such a large project for me and with such a personal expression for him. Peter helped to send me on my way to New York City, personally introducing me to the Martha Graham School and the last great Graham dancer (after Peter!) Pearl Lange. Were it not for Peter, I would be lost. I think the U of M Dance Department is second to none here, or anywhere, if you are serious about understanding dance, music, and the relationship and debt dancers share and owe with musicians.
How is composing for dance different from composing for instrumentalists?
DR: The only difference in composing for dance, as opposed to composing in a more general sense, lies in the ability of the composer to collaborate with the choreographer. Here, communication is the most important aspect of the relationship; both parties must make that commitment and one must be willing to trust the other. Without communication and trust collaboration will be difficult if not impossible.
Alexandra Beller, choreographer
Alexandra Beller, who received a BFA in Dance from the University of Michigan in 1994, was a member of the internationally renowned Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company from 1995 until August 2001. She has performed in over 50 countries and throughout the United States. Her choreography has been presented throughout New York City and has been commissioned by companies in Arizona, Boston, Florida, Rhode Island, Michigan, Texas, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Maine, New York City and elsewhere.
Were you always interested in choreography?
AB: No. I was mostly interested in being a performer. Working with such a great choreographer as Bill T. Jones for a number of years and watching his creative process made me hungry for my own. I realized that I needed to create my own work, which has a very different aesthetic from his.
What is your philosophy in regards to choreography?
AB: Movement is at the heart of everything I do. I am interested in creating a physical and intellectual flow that is capable, eventually, of shifting the social and cultural stasis. My choreography is affected by the visceral and the intangible. I am inspired by both the fall of a limb and turn of a sonnet, by the architecture of bodies on stage and the archetype of dystopia on our streets. As a choreographer, I often use text and theatrical elements to illuminate relationships, desires, and losses. At the same time, I want to come to terms with gravity and all of her resources; to be porous, fluid, and instinctual as a mover.
Where do you find inspiration for your dances?
AB: Everywhere. I was sitting in an Indian restaurant the other day and a little kid waved at me through the window. I waved back and he continued to wave and wave and wave. It seemed as though he would continue waving forever. I immediately began thinking of how to work that into a dance, where someone would face the audience and wave and wave and wave. I look for moments that touch us - mostly moments of socialization or moments when we come against the expectations of a socialized culture. Just walking down the street or being on the subway gives me visual moments to catch. There has to be a reason why you're dancing. I'm not a big fan of dancing just to dance. There doesn't need to be a narrative, but I feel there needs to be a reason behind the movement. Dance is an act of survival, an act of subversion and an act of expression. Those are all large concepts. I'm not so interested in dance as an expression of ego but rather as an attempt to connect with others.
Is it different to choreograph for a performance with live music?
AB: Definitely. It's quite different than working with recorded music. It brings added excitement to the performance in addition to what is expressed in the dance. Working with live musicians brings an element of chance and change, egos and different perspectives, and real energy, rather than perfected, pre-recorded music. At the same time, live music can present additional challenges that you don t get from a recording. However, the added challenge and excitement is always worth the trouble.
How does choreographing to jazz music differ from other kinds of music?
AB: For me the ideas inherent in jazz are elements I work with a lot. The concepts of improvisation, syncopation, dynamics, variability, and juxtaposing moods against each other are very natural to me when I approach choreography.
Is there anything different/special/unique about this project?
AB: This project is my first opportunity to create a work with all these elements at once - live music, original compositions, a budget for costumes, film collaboration, the size of the stage. I m used to working in New York City, usually self-producing my work and in much smaller venues. This concert is by far the widest palette I've ever worked with. It is though I've been painting on postcards and now I've been presented with a wall on which I can spread out my ideas and take a step back. The Power Center allows me to work architecturally. It's the difference between being inside a city and then seeing the skyline from a distance. There is an element of perspective that is unique for me here. The opportunity to create a skyline is very exciting. And being able to do it at my alma mater makes it that much more special.
- Rachel Francisco
THE UNIVERSITY DANCE COMPANY COLLABORATES WITH THE UM JAZZ ENSEMBLE TO PRESENT "JAZZIN'"
Ann Arbor - The UM University Dance Company and the UM Jazz Ensemble presents "Jazzin'" at the Power Center for the Performing Arts on February 3 at 7:30PM, February 4 & 5 at 8PM and February 6 at 2PM. Featuring choreography by guest artist Alexandra Beller and faculty members, "Jazzin'" is an evening of modern dance set to jazz standards and new compositions played live by the UM Jazz Ensemble under the musical direction of Ellen Rowe.
The evening begins with a work by faculty member Gay Delanghe entitled "Dancin' Fats." First performed in 1984, the dance harkens back to the New York City dance scene of the 1970s when prominent choreographers including Twyla Tharp, Bix Beiderbecke, Anna Sokolow, and George Balanchine reached back into the wealth of early American Jazz music for accompaniment. "Dancin' Fats" is in the spirit of this approach, honoring Fats Waller and the American 1930s. The work features such Waller favorites as "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Ain't Misbehavin'."
Vera Embree, a professor emeritus of the Department of Dance who passed away in July, is remembered through her dance "Four Women" which premiered in the mid 1970s. Set to a work by Nina Simone of the same name, "Four Women" is a portrait of four African American women. The dance is restaged by Cecile Keith Brown and Maria Mitchell, members of the Trotter House Dancers.
Bill DeYoung creates a work to "Dance You Monster to My Soft Song" by Maria Schneider featured on her debut album Evanescence from 1993. A highly dynamic piece, "Dance You Monster" features intricate dance patterns that ebb and flow with the music. The "Washington Post" called Schneider "the foremost big-band composer of her generation" and "Time Magazine" declared "[Schneider] paints musical landscapes full of glowing pastel harmonies and sharp-angled rhythms. Listen to her sweepingly ambitious compositions, and hear the next wave in jazz taking shape before your very ears."
Celebrating the signature jazz style of Bob Fosse, Musical Theatre Department faculty member Linda Goodrich resets Fosse s choreography of "Rich Man s Frug" from Sweet Charity. According to Goodrich who studied the Fosse style under Ann Reinking and Chet Walker, "Fosse's use of isolated movement helped to define jazz and bring movement possibilities and attention to detail to a level never before accomplished. His sensual, yet often humorous style is completely his own - he brought sexuality to the stage, yet did it with a 'wink' so that it was palatable for audiences who weren't used to seeing such explicit content on stage." Set to music by Cy Coleman, the work features dancers from both the Dept. of Dance and the Musical Theatre Dept.
Robin Wilson creates "Lovejoy Suite," a work featuring the music of four jazz composers/performers: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, UM School of Music faculty member Ed Sarath, and Craig Harris. ""Lovejoy Suite" celebrates jazz and its continuing love affair with dance," states Wilson. "Both forms embrace spontaneity, improvisation, and innovation be it on the dance floor, with bandleaders like Chick Webb and Duke Ellington, or in later years, such as the "free jazz" period, with music by artists such as the Sun Ra Arkestra and Ornette Coleman."
Choreographer Sandra Torijano contributes two works for the concert, "Bella" and "Suite Latin Jazz." "Bella," set to a work by UM School of Music Jazz faculty member Roland Vasquez entitled "Sevilla," explores the strength and uniqueness of beauty found in every woman. Torijano reaches back to her Costa Rican heritage to create "Suite Latin Jazz," a work honoring the vibrancy of Costa Rica in midst of their struggle against exploitation and marginalization by other countries and corporations. A rich melage of Latin Jazz works, the dance features music from Pablo Milanes, Louis Prima, Alberto Dominguez, William Attaway, and Irving Burgie.
The highlight of the concert is a work by guest artist Alexandra Beller entitled "Reasons for Moving," set to a commissioned work of the same name by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Beller and Roumain are both alumni of the UM School of Music. "Returning to UM as a visiting artist is incredibly gratifying," states Beller. "To be able to reach the students at a point in their careers that is so fertile, so innocent, and so full of potential, and to be doing that in the space where I myself formed such fundamental ideas about art is immensely satisfying." She describes "Reasons for Moving" as "investigating how the space between us shapes our relationships to one another. It examines how people form communities, how they gather and recede, and how the effect of a single person or action can be felt globally." Music Director of the Bill T. Jones Company, Roumain was recently featured in a New York Times profile on January 2, 2005 as a composer who can blend classical and contemporary idioms.
The artistic team for "Jazzin'" includes set and costume designer Jeff Bauer, who joins the University Dance Company for his fourth concert having previously designed Dances for Petersburg, Dances of Passion and Resonant Rhythms. Mary Cole, a faculty member in the Department of Dance, will design the lighting.
Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $9 with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at www.uprod.music.edu. The Power Center for the Performing Arts, located at 121 Fletcher Street, is handicapped accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.
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- Kerianne M. Tupac
Click here to view the Jazzin' program as a PDF file
Production Photographs||Tap Solo||Choreography by Jarel Waters||Dancin' Fats||Choreography by Gay Delanghe||Bella||Choreography by Sandra Torijano DeYoung||Dance You Monster to My Soft Song||Choreography by Bill DeYoung||Reasons for Moving||Choreography by Alexandra Beller||Rich Man's Frug||Choreography by Bob Fosse Restaged by Linda Goodrich||Blue Highways||UM Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Ellen Rowe||Lovejoy||Choreography by Robin Wilson||Four Women||Choreography by Vera Embree||Suite Latin Jazz||Choreography by Sandra Torijano DeYoung|