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Washington and Lee event features dance company, jazz ensemble

washington and lee dance
Photo courtesy Washington and Lee University.

The Washington and Lee University Department of Theatre, Dance and Film Studies and Department of Music present the award-winning W&L Repertory Dance Company and University Jazz Ensemble, March 10th, 11th, and 12th at 7:30 pm in Keller Theatre at the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

Tickets can be purchased at (540) 458-8000 or online at www.wlu.edu/lenfest-center.

Masks are required.

Inspired by Preservation Hall, the Keller stage will be transformed into a 1940s New Orleans jazz club featuring student musicians and dancers, guest artists, and faculty collaborating to create original art works. Syncopation, complex cords, and improvisation will drive rich, experimental choreography and powerful movement.

The University Jazz Ensemble’s driving beat, led by Director Terry Vosbein, will be front and center as they share the stage with the dancers who will be interpreting such diverse works as Summertime by George Gershwin, Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione and It Don’t Mean A Thing by Duke Ellington.

This fully produced concert of eight works contains the fruit of five artistic residencies that occurred throughout the semester. Nationally renowned choreographers Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Caroline Calouche, Anne Van Gelder, Eric Rivera and Melanie Richards each spent several days on campus holding intensive choreographic rehearsals and teaching master classes.

Hosting these esteemed dance makers was an enriching educational experience that offered valuable learning outcomes specific to the working relationship between choreographer and performer. Also included in the concert are two dance works that are the product of senior dance independent studies that look at the limitations of aerial bungee, choreographed by Irina Koleva ’22, and corde lisse, choreographed by Zach Baldridge ’22, and seek to push the boundaries of the art form.

Director and founder of the Charlotte Dance Festival, Caroline Calouche, worked with aerial soloist, Kate Fisher ’23, to create a silks piece that is “challenging but buoyant with interesting variation,” and jazz director, Terry Vosbein, arranged his own version of Summertime to accompany it.

Anne Van Gelder, director of dance and artistic director of University Dancers at the University of Richmond, adapted a previous trio for jazz music transformed it into a quartet.

“Working with students in dance in the liberal arts is one of the most rewarding things that I do,” Van Gelder said. “They bring varying points of view to the conversation, infusing the dance with a maturity and richness that is inspiring.”

Eric Rivera, assistant professor of dance at Virginia Commonwealth University, was inspired by the quote “dance simply put is the strength of a muscle, the grace of a pose, the corporal memory of a sequence of moves, and the infinite joy of being true to oneself,” and crafted his piece to reflect beauty in shape and line.

Internationally renowned dancer/choreographer and actress, Melanie Richards, created a tap duet inspired by Duke Ellington’s music. Richard emphasizes how “the style of the movement and the structure of the piece is reflective of popular dance and tap styles of late 1930s and early 1940s with opportunities for the tap dancers to improvise sections of the piece in the same way jazz musicians were given opportunities to improvise within the performance of the song.”

Artistic Director Jenefer Davies said about the experience of curating this performance, “bringing together guest artists, faculty, and students creates a beautiful synergy. A palpable force of teaching and learning is created through the artistic process.” Her piece in the concert is part of an international choreographic exchange project by award winning, Belgian choreographer, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, who shared the revolutionary concept of looking at dance not as intellectual property but as shared experience.

De Keersmaeker shared six 4-count phrases and challenged choreographers to create original works based on those counts and upload them to share. Davies challenged herself to transform 24 counts into a six-and-a-half-minute dance piece set to The Chicken by Pee Wee Ellis.


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