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JAZZDANCE by Danny Buraczeski

'Las Cuatro Estaciones/The Four Seasons,’ ‘Get Happy! The Judy Garland Project’ (excerpt), ‘Beat,’ and ‘Swing Concerto’

by Holly Messitt

July 21, 2003 ­ The Joyce Theater, New York

Danny Buraczeski’s Jazzdance presented three pieces from the company’s repertoire and one premier Monday night in its first of six performances at the Joyce Theater in New York. Highly apparent during the evening was Buraczeski’s aesthetic as a choreographer of jazz dancing that appeals to the intellect. Instead of movement that eroticizes the body Fosse-style, Buraczeski prefers to use the body to explore spatial relationships and social dynamics.

The evening’s premier, “Beat,” was an exploration of abstract spacing and movement choreographed to an original score from Philip Hamilton with Peter Jones. The six dancers on stage, all in blood-red costumes designed by Mary Hansmeyer, glowed against a stark black backdrop and under red lights. Groupings formed and dissipated, arms arced out into space, chests opened and then suddenly collapsed. In the duet with Jeffrey Peterson and Jennifer Brackin, neither of whom are endowed with a elongated dancer’s body, I felt the very human quality of their movement ­ and, along with that, the humanism that is a central part of Buraczeski’s work.

Perhaps the most hauntingly beautiful piece of the evening was “Las Curatro Estaciones/The Four Seasons,” danced to Astor Piazzolla’s Latin revision of Vivaldi’s classic. Four interchangeable dancing pairs ­ four men and four women ­ and one soloist, Mary Ann Bradley, danced in front of a wilderness of leaves, painted by Susan Weil, that was illuminated from behind. Ms. Bradley’s character, a willowy figure who evoked a nymph, a seductress, mother nature, or a goddess, at first danced alone or apart from the rest of the group; but, through each section of the dance ­ from Summer to Fall, Winter, and Spring ­ she danced closer to the others and at last became an integral figure within the group. The final image, which echoed the sentiment expressed by American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in the program ­ “…and we were led in triumph by nature,” stayed with me long after the dance was over. All lights dimmed except for those behind the backdrop.   Ms. Bradley strode across the back of the stage as the other dancers sat on the floor with their torsos twisted towards her and their arms reaching out to her.

Also on the program for the evening was an excerpt from “Get Happy! The Judy Garland Project,” Buraczeski’s autobiographical tribute about his devotion to Judy Garland that explored the relationship between performer and audience, as well as “Swing Concerto.” The latter is both a crowd-pleasing swing dance, and, through the use of movement reminiscent of traditional Yiddish folk dance, is evocative of the immigrant experience in the United States.   For this dance Buraczeski employed music from Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw together with music from the contemporary group, Brave Old World. The dance begins with Mathew Janczewski alone on stage as an Old World figure. He moves to clarinet/Klezmer music when he is suddenly confronted by eight 1940s-clad American swing dancers. By the end of the piece he has seamlessly joined the group. Though the energy at the end of the dance pleased the crowd, I was disappointed by this image of assimilation that left no trace of the Old World influence, but there was little else that dissatisfied me about Buraczeski’s work.

Edited by Jeff.

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