All That’s Jazz If You Want It to Be

August 5, 2012

The Jazz Dance World Congress was a shot of adrenaline for students, teachers, and budding choreographers. For the first time the congress and accompanying festival were held at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. (See our education story on this new partnership.) Not only did the convention benefit from the excellent studios of PPU, but it also gained an inspiring teacher in Garfield Lemonius, on faculty at PPU. Among the hard-core jazz teachers like Liz Imperio, Ray Leeper, and Nan Giordano (artistic director of both the congress and Giordano Dance Chicago), Garfield’s blend of modern and jazz was equally popular. So were revered ballet teacher Homer Bryant (he’s a one-man band, and intense about discipline) and go-for-broke hip-hop teacher Sandra Romah.


Revered ballet teacher Homer Bryant
at JDWC. Photo by Joel Solari, Courtesy JDWC.


Garfield also chaired the little band of five judges (including me) for the International Choreography Competition. With 16 entries from all over the country, we didn’t waste time discussing the exact definition of jazz dance. Jared Baker of the University of Arizona won the choreography competition with his beautifully crafted depiction of alienation in It’s the Shame in the Pride.


Garfield Lemonius teaching at JDWC.


Performances by 10 companies over four nights kept things rushing along. Students screamed for their favorites, sometimes even before the curtain went up. There were many highpoints each night, but I’ll just recap three of them: Koresh’s stompin’ smokin’ Bolero, August Wilson Dance Center Ensemble’s performance of Kyle Abraham’s fascinating Function, and Giordano’s JOLT, which ended the festival on a hyper jittery—and funny—high. (Co-choreographed by Nan Giordano and Autumn Eckman, it was reviewed here when it premiered.)

Students could sign up for auditions for Point Park, which is offering scholarship money through the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation. But the congress (which was partly sponsored by Dance Magazine) also had students hailing from University of the Arts, Western Kentucky University, East Carolina University, and many studios. I would guess that the cumulative effect of the classes, talks, and performances, gave them the “jolt” they need to dedicate themselves to a future in dance. —Wendy Perron