Sooner or later 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 tune has been carried out by many jazz greats through the years, together with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. About midway via the nearly-10-minute tune the usual jazz melody kicked in, and Isiguen — who makes use of “Footprints” because the music for her upcoming piece “comply with it via,” 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 stay musicians,” Isiguen says. “One of many musicians, Norman Beede, used to play ‘Footprints’ on a regular basis. Listening to the start of the tune, 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Isiguen, who was raised in North Carolina and has danced since she was 2 years outdated, says that motion and music have at all times been a ardour for her. “I grew up dancing,” she says. “At dwelling we would at all times have on music and be dancing across the kitchen. We nonetheless do!”
Isiguen is the creative director of “UW Dance Presents,” which options division college students who will current work from 5 choreographers: 4 stay performances and a dance movie set up. Two items within the live performance, Isiguen’s “comply with it via,” 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 collection of actions set to an interesting monitor, every premiere was created with the identical inventive method via which jazz discovered its soul.
“On the coronary heart of it was sharing expression and communication,” Isiguen says. “One of many largest stuff you discover in jazz is a way of play that is not codified or set. That may be exhausting for the scholars. I inform them, ‘I do not want your leg to be excessive, and your foot does not must 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 tune’s violin and piano elements and the approaching collectively of dancers in massive and smaller teams. duets in ways in which discover human connection. One of many overlaps between the kinds is the intangible essence of stay efficiency with a set of individuals.
“It may be completely different each night time as a result of it is stay,” I comply with says. “Though the steps are set, inevitably it is by no means going to be the identical as a result of it’s a must to 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 one in all 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.
“In fact, that did not occur,” she says with fun. “I did not main in dance, however I used to be in a lot of the scholar 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 finding out 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 accordance with the present notes for “UW Dance Presents,” Minor’s “Walkin’ Bass,” “is impressed by a collection of ongoing investigations beneath the title ‘a observe 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 through which, very like jazz improvisation, she would supply an thought for a phrase of motion and ask them to be taught it, then reply. She additionally supplied 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, whenever you work with a big group of dancers, to be amongst them, there’s a completely 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 thought and produce worth to that concept inside that area collectively.”
One other method Minor takes in her work is trying again to look ahead: understanding that we stay in a distinct world (culturally, politically and socially) than existed as jazz emerged and advanced in the USA, 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 experience,” Minor says. “We’re taking a look at what we will discover within the music and the way we will discover it with our our bodies right now. What the dancers carry to it now could be as essential because the historical past.”