Monday, January 21, 2008

Jazz Suite #1 - She's Funny That Way

Okay, Jazz Suite #1.

This was actually the middle piece of the program. However, it was the last to be started. We have a larger jazz piece in the repertoire, Opus Swing. It utilizes a cast of about 24 and is set to the lush big band sounds of Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman.

But (non-commercial) jazz is usually (and was usually) played by small combos. For a while, I have wanted to set a smaller jazz piece that would reflect the intimacy of this intimate, yet intricate sound.

Like the Joplin ballet, this piece was created over some months. The first solo created actually falls in the middle of the ballet, and I'll discuss that when it pops up.

The second piece created became the solo (danced by Shannon Hunter, set to "She's Funny That Way") that opened that ballet.

Shannon has a unique style. Soft and absent-mindedly sensuous. She can dance in the corps quite well, but I think that she actually needs to be onstage alone for the audience to catch the nuances of her phrasing. Alone or surrounded by attentive men.

As mentioned in our discussion of Sonnets (in an earlier post), Shannon was replacing another dancer in just such a "attentive men" number, when she suffered an ankle injury and had to be replaced. The doctor told her that she would be unable to dance for a few months.

As we had our fundraiser coming up, I needed to create some unique dances for it.

Nothing was wrong with Shannon, apart from a bad ankle, so I decided to choreograph a dance for her where she would just stay on the floor. Rolling.

I also knew I was doing the jazz piece in the next season, and I knew that I would need a variety of intimate solos.

What can be more intimate than a beautiful girl stretching on the floor?

Floorwork is something I am quite comfortable with. When I started dancing, jazz and theatre dance was very much influenced by modern dance. Not a day went by when we weren't falling, sliding or spinning on the floor.

The piece was very popular at the fundraiser... and after watching it over and over again, I decided it should open the ballet.

All along we thought that someone had video taped it (as the show had been recorded by a few people). But both this dance and the other solo from Jazz Suite had not been shot.

So when we were ready to actually start the piece in earnest, we had to reconstruct it from memory. Luckily, most of it came back to us. The rest... we just tweaked to fit.



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