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