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Where to go: JAZZ DANCE WORLD CONGRESS.

JDWC FLIES TO BUFFALO

The Jazz Dance World Congress is more of a congregation of devoted jazz dancers than a legislative body. Since the first gathering of the living pioneers of jazz dance and their students in 1992, the highly successful event has met each August. In even-numbered years the five-day event is held in the United States; then in alternate years the Congress has been hosted by other countries. In 1995 it was in Nagoya, Japan, and in 1997 it was held in Wiesbaden, Germany.

The Jazz Dance World Congress '99 will be held August 4-8 in Buffalo, New York, but it is characterized as a U.S.-Canadian event. Cosponsored by the University of Buffalo Center for the Performing Arts and Gus Giordano, this summer's gathering will be held on campus at UB's new state-of-the-art facility with 250,000 square feet of space that includes a spacious performing space, smaller theaters, and an elaborate athletic complex.

Classes taught by this year's faculty of master teachers are scheduled to be held in the adjoining alumni arena. Faculty will include jazz dance pioneer and founder of the JDWC Gus Giordano, current artistic director Nan Giordano, Joe Tremaine, Frank Hatchett, Patsy Swayze, Joe Lanteri, Randy Duncan, and Patti Obey. Judith Scott, jazz dancer and author of Good-bye to Bad Backs, will once again start each day with a warm-up, stretch-and-strengthen class to ensure dancers are ready for the intensive week and for continuing health. Minimum age for enrollment in classes is thirteen.

The JDWC held in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1998 was the first time that a "kids' class" was offered, and it drew children from all over the world. One remarkably sophisticated and well-traveled youngster from Central America said she liked all her teachers for different reasons, but "1 really want to know more about jumping." The 1999 Congress will continue the classes for children, ages ten to twelve, who will enjoy instruction from all the master faculty, and a few surprises besides.

One advantage of attending this jazz dance intensive is taking class with professional company members. Members of the Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, or Japan's Masashi Action Machine are likely to be improving their skills right next to you in class or in warm-ups.

Evenings are for watching and enjoying the single greatest program of concert jazz dance anywhere in the world. Five evenings of concerts by professional jazz dance companies, many internationally known, are part of the registration package. Of course, afterward there will be plenty of the famous Buffalo wings that the university city is famous for.

Daily matinee performances provide another needed break from classes when the finalists in the Leo's Choreography Competitive Event are adjudicated. Leo's Dancewear has sponsored this event since the first Congress, rewarding the first-, second-, and third-place winners with trophies and cash awards to encourage new works in the jazz dance idiom. Submissions are adjudicated by videotape first, and only the finalists perform. Dancers in the competing groups are often, but not always, pre-professionals. For example, members of the Masashi Action Machine and Russian Modern Ballet Group have traveled to the Congress and participated in the competitions every year. Many dancers from universities and private studios also compete at very high levels of skill. In 1998, for example, Sue Sampson-Dalena entered Synchronicity, choreography that Mia Michaels had set on dancers from her Dance Studio of Fresno (California). When their entry was judged the Leo gold-medal-winner, the young dancers were invited to perform in the gala jazz dance concert in Symphony Hall on the closing evening of the Congress.

Coincidentally, Michaels, a silver medal winner for her choreography from prior years, debuted her stunning, edgy new professional company, Mia Michael's R.A.W., at the evening's concerts. The Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago is always the anchoring host performing company, ever surprising with works from the repertory or newly choreographed pieces set on the company. In Phoenix during the 1998 Congress concert series, established companies, such as the elegant Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, backed up to exciting and committed new companies such as Utah Contemporary Dance Theatre. The Lula Washington Dance Theatre, known for their dramatically intense commentary on social issues, had the audience roaring with laughter at one of their rarely seen lighter pieces. Jazz tap was well represented too with special guest Buster Cooper doing a turn, and the Bill Evans Dance Company was never in better form with Sara Hutchinson singing skat to Evans's rhythm tap. A full spectrum of works from slinky to silly gave the audience and students much style to try on.

Informal lunchtime panel discussions and preperformance "meet the choreographer" sessions round out the educational fare and allow extra time for questions and discussions. People can also networkin the exhibition hall, and when they are standing in lines, walking to and waiting for class. The Jazz Jamm, with all the master teachers taking a turn, is a traditional final class.

The world's jazz dance congregation is made up of devoted artists and students who are closely linked to a unique tradition-and they seek out the Congress as a sort of touchstone wherever it's held. Once you've been a part of it, you revisit that fellowship. If jazz dancers are not out dancing somewhere else, you'll find them at the Congress in August.

K.C. Patrick is an Associate Editor at Dance Magazine.
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Author:Patrick, K.C.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:903
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