Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Bloom National Festival of Dance of the African Diaspora 2017
An Evening of Jazz - Dance and Music
Facilitated by Dr Sheron Way, One Dance UK's biennial Bloom National Festival invites an expert panel of jazz dancers and musicians to open a conversation about the complex relationship between jazz music and dance forms.
With its roots in African and African-American social and popular dance, jazz has transformed throughout the last century. From its emergence in the club scene at world venues like Harlem's Savoy Ballroom and Camden's Electric Ballroom in the early 20th century, jazz dance has been refined, formalised and commodified into Euro-American and European ballroom dance forms, like the waltz, the foxtrot and the tango. Jazz reached the UK through recordings and dance artists that visited Britain shortly after World War I.
The evening's panel included leading jazz double bassist Gary Crosby OBE; renowned tap dancer and musician Annette Walker; revolutionary jazz dancer Gary Nurse; Jazz Dance Lecturer and experienced jazz teacher Joyce Gyimah; professional dancer, teacher and choreographer Jreena Green; and professional dancer Sean Graham.
|Evening of Jazz Panel with London Programmer Heather Benson at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Bloom Festival 2017 Photo by Heather Benson|
Interjected with brief performances, beginning with an uplifting collaboration between Annette Walker and Gary Crosby, the evening delved into the richness and relevance of jazz today. Discussions ranged from Black British culture, to the social functions of jazz, to the constrictions of european dance pedagogy.
|Gary Crosby, Annette Walker and Jerry Barry at Evening of Jazz, Bloom Festival 2017 Photo by Heather Benson|
Sean Graham spoke of his spiritual resonance with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre at a time when non-European dance forms were not widely taught within British dance education. Jazz dance teacher Joyce Gyimah echoed this feeling, with her thoughts on the codification of dance teaching. While jazz moved from clubs into dance schools, Sean Graham, like many of us, turned to hip hop as an alternative to the European options that were available.
So the question is asked: how can we bring jazz dance back to the social space? With the rise of social media and instant gratification, how can we engage with jazz in "real" social spaces, without the restrictions of a syllabus and prescribed steps?
Jazz, like many other art forms from within other communities, came from a place of survival. But jazz is also a celebration of the Black British journey- it's an expression of joy. As Sean Graham illustrated, jazz still matters because the Black British journey still matters. It is rich, current and relevant.
Find out more about Bloom Nation Festival and book onto other upcoming events in London, Sheffield and Leicester here.