Dance 400 Jazzily Confesses

Last term, the faculty of the Theatre and Dance Department decided to mix things up. Ordinarily, the term “Dance 400” is associated with an academic class which focuses on a particular aspect of dance, be it a time period, music style, choreographer, or culture, and eventually creates a production centered around that focus. Instead of offering the course as a class, this fall the choreographers and dancers met in their free time to stage a show, without the academic component. Though it existed only as a production and not as a class, the fall term’s Dance 400 followed the same structure as all the others do. This time around, the theme was jazz music, and Jazz Confessions was the product. The show was directed and choreographed by Mark Broomfield and Anne Zuerner ’97, instructors in dance, and showcased a broad range of choreography, from ballet to jazz to lyrical to swing to swinging. Broomfield, in his third year of teaching and Andover, continues to raise the bar of excellence in every one of his productions, and this was no exception. Zuerner, making her debut as a PA faculty choreographer, brought creativity and professionalism to her pieces and started what one hopes will be a continued trend of dynamic choreography. Jazz Confessions began strongly with a piece entitled “One Count Swings,” performed to Count Basie’s big band rendition of Vernon Duke’s “April in Paris.” This piece featured beautiful costumes, designed by Mr. Murray’s Theatre 280 class. The variety of colors and styles was dazzling and perfectly matched the time period of the piece, complementing all the dancers. Beautiful lines characterized this piece, choreographed by Broomfield, which were accentuated by extended arms and legs throughout the flowing, jazzy swing. One of the greatest things about this piece was that everyone looked as if he were having fun. That impression put the audience at ease right away and set the standard for the rest of the show. The second piece, choreographed by Zuerner, was entitled “Stormy Summer,” and consisted of four movements. The piece was choreographed as an example of female experiences with love, in particular those associated with lost love. The piece followed a basic plot structured around the lyrics of each of the four songs. “Jim” tells the story of a woman being treated badly, “I’ll Be Seeing You” of leaving her man, “Trouble in Mind” of the light at the end of the tunnel, and “I’ve got the World on a String” of falling in love all over again. The first of the four movements, performed to Sarah Vaughan’s “Jim,” was to me one of the best of the entire show. Two black scrims bordered a microphone placed at center stage, providing a striking backdrop for the piece. A beautiful modern solo by Tess Scott ’06 preceded another solo, performed by Gina Crivelli ’05, which coincided with a trumpet solo in the song. The movement progressed like clockwork, creating a clean and sharp effect, contrasting with the rough, bluesy flow of the song. The third movement of “Stormy Summer” was a clear departure from the previous two. This playful movement, performed to Nina Simone’s “Trouble In Mind,” was truly inspired by its fast, bluesy music. In a piece where heat was evident, the blue-lit backdrop served almost as a sensory dichotomy, the hot imagery through the choreography almost contradicting the cool imagery provided by the backdrop. It all made sense later, though, through a series of lifts characterized by their swimming movements. In this movement, the title “Stormy Summer” was really made evident. The final movement of the piece featured a performance by Fidelio co-president alto Ari Gold ’04. Singing “I’ve got the World on a String,” Gold’s voice provided a perfect complement to the bouncy and playful choreography, set in a dance hall. Red lighting evoked a sense of love and happiness, a suitable ending to the “stormy summer.” After “Stormy Summer,” the next piece came as a surprising contrast. “Reverie,” choreographed by Broomfield, implemented the use of a swing, hung from the rafters. This, combined with the billowing fog across the floor of the stage and the purple and pink backdrop, created the dreamy image of floating in the clouds, a perfect fit for the title. This solo by Scott featured much swinging back and forth, interrupted by fast, jazzy interludes in time with the music changes. Almost a concept piece, the choreography and stage design came straight from Broomfield’s imagination, showing his creativity and ability to bring ideas to the stage. Zuerner’s second piece, “Giant Steps,” was an interesting piece of choreography in that it was choreographed in traditional style (en pointe), but was set to a fast, swing, saxophone tune by John Coltrane. Zuerner’s chose to use pointe choreography to her advantage in “Giant Steps,” incorporating it almost seamlessly into a piece of music which was not necessarily conducive to that sort of dance. While pointe can often appear awkward, Zuerner made it look easy by using synchronized movements throughout most of the piece. The only possible gripe about this piece could be the difference in height between the two dancers, Katie Ting ’04 and Margaret Wheeler ’04. Aesthetically, it wasn’t a big problem, but practically, it created issues with some of the choreography. The penultimate piece of Jazz Confessions was entitled, “Young In Love,” and featured Margaret Pyle ’04 in a beautiful lyrical solo. Choreographed by Broomfield, “Young In Love” featured a number of graceful turns, jumps, and leaps, all set to simple piano music. Pyle’s pure white dress and bare feet were offset by a striking teal backdrop. Pyle has a natural talent of expression in her dance, and she used it to its full potential in this piece, using Broomfield’s choreography to give the piece a sense of yearning and of hope. Broomfield saved the best for last, though, in “Jam, Jive, and Everything,” a swing piece which brought the whole show together for a flashy finale. In the same vein as “One Count Swings,” “Jam, Jive, and Everything” showcased Broomfield’s ability to choreograph pieces that people love to perform. In this last piece, set at a club, everyone looked as if they were having the times of their lives, as well they should have. “Jam, Jive, and Everything” featured special appearances by Lower boys and members of the soccer team, not to mention Junior dancing sensation Robbie Brewer ’07. Jazz Confessions was chock-full of fabulous choreography and dancers, a crucial combination when it comes to dance. Broomfield and Zuerner should be commended for their originality and dedication to this project, putting in hours in their free time in this term’s absence of an academic Dance 400 class. Next term’s Dance 400 (which will be academic), co-taught by Zuerner and Spanish teaching fellow Comfort Halsey, will be a collaboration between students from PA and from Hope Street in Lawrence. The class will look at dance as “cultural preservation and an embodiment of history,” said Zuerner. If Jazz Confessions is any indication as to what this term’s Dance 400 will be like, then it should be phenomenal.