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At UW, 2 choreographers dive into jazz

Someday in the course of the pandemic, performer, choreographer, and College of Washington Division of Dance artist-in-residence Alana Isiguen was driving when the 2001 model of the jazz customary “Footprints,” recorded by Regina Carter and Kenny Barron got here on her automobile radio. Initially composed and recorded in 1966 by saxophonist Wayne Shorter for his album “Adam’s Apple,” the music has been carried out by many jazz greats through the years, together with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. About midway by the nearly-10-minute music the usual jazz melody kicked in, and Isiguen — who makes use of “Footprints” because the music for her upcoming piece “observe it by,” operating Jan. 20-22 as a part of the “UW Dance Presents” live performance—realized that she had heard it earlier than.

“After I graduated and was educating dance at UC Irvine, we had the chance to work with reside musicians,” Isiguen says. “One of many musicians, Norman Beede, used to play ‘Footprints’ on a regular basis. Listening to the start of the music, it is tremendous rhythmic and dynamic and it drew me in. About 4 minutes in I used to be like, ‘Wait, I do know this piece!’”

Isiguen, who was raised in North Carolina and has danced since she was 2 years previous, says that motion and music have at all times been a ardour for her. “I grew up dancing,” she says. “At house we might at all times have on music and be dancing across the kitchen. We nonetheless do!”

Isiguen is the inventive director of “UW Dance Presents,” which options division college students who will current work from 5 choreographers: 4 reside performances and a dance movie set up. Two items within the live performance, Isiguen’s “observe it by,” and choreographer Nia-Amina Minor’s “Walkin’ Bass,” are new works grounded in deep investigations of the historical past and spirit of jazz music. Greater than only a sequence of actions set to an interesting monitor, every premiere was created with the identical inventive strategy by which jazz discovered its soul.

“On the coronary heart of it was sharing expression and communication,” Isiguen says. “One of many greatest stuff you discover in jazz is a way of play that is not codified or set. That may be laborious for the scholars. I inform them, ‘I do not want your leg to be excessive, and your foot does not should be pointed … I simply need you to really feel the music.’”

Her work, which options an ensemble of eight dancers, contains summary choreography that performs with the construction of “Footprints,” together with the call-and-response nature of the music’s violin and piano elements and the approaching collectively of dancers in giant and smaller teams. duets in ways in which discover human connection. One of many overlaps between the types is the intangible essence of reside efficiency with a set of individuals.

“It may be totally different each night time as a result of it is reside,” I observe says. “Although the steps are set, inevitably it is by no means going to be the identical as a result of you must be current within the second and reply to these round you.”

Nia-Amina Minor — a Made in Seattle Resident Artist at Velocity Dance Middle and certainly one of Dance Journal’s 25 Artists to Watch in 2021 — can also be within the intersections of jazz and dance. Like Isiguen, Minor has danced since childhood. Rising up in Los Angeles, she spent nearly all of her nonschool hours on the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, however by the point she graduated from highschool, Minor was prepared for a break from dance and enrolled at Stanford College.

“After all, that did not occur,” she says with fun. “I did not main in dance, however I used to be in many of the pupil dance teams, and I used to be at all times within the division taking courses and getting concerned within the performances.”

In 2016 (after spending a yr learning overseas in Berlin and subsequently incomes an MFA in Dance at UC Irvine), Minor moved to Seattle to affix the corporate at Spectrum Dance Theater, the place she has been capable of additional her work round Black realities and the intersections of bodily motion, reminiscence, and rhythm. In response to the present notes for “UW Dance Presents,” Minor’s “Walkin’ Bass,” “is impressed by a sequence of ongoing investigations underneath the title ‘a follow of return;’ an train in trying again to see the place you might be.”

Working with compositions by the late ragtime and jazz pianist Eubie Blake and native modern musical group Industrial Revelation, Minor choreographed her piece collaboratively with the scholars. She used a call-and-response format by which, very similar to jazz improvisation, she would supply an concept for a phrase of motion and ask them to be taught it, then reply. She additionally offered choreographer and improvisational duties to assist them create further phrase work.

“There’s a idea that I skilled whereas working in ensemble firms,” Minor says, “the place, while you work with a big group of dancers, to be amongst them, there’s a totally different kind of consciousness of the connection that’s current within the studio or on the stage. It requires everybody to be dedicated to an concept and convey worth to that concept inside that house collectively.”

One other strategy Minor takes in her work is trying again to look ahead: understanding that we reside in a special world (culturally, politically and socially) than existed as jazz emerged and advanced in america, however that our experiences can apply a brand new lens to the historic work.

“As I reintroduce myself to music historical past, I am taking the scholars alongside for the journey,” Minor says. “We’re what we are able to discover within the music and the way we are able to discover it with our our bodies right now. What the dancers deliver to it now could be as vital because the historical past.”

“UW Dance Presents”

Jan 20–22; UW Dance Division at Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater at Meany Middle for the Performing Arts, 4040 George Washington Lane NE, Seattle; $10-$22; 206-543-4880,

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