It is a performance that has been anticipated for 30 years. The leaders of the Contemporary Dance Theatre and Synthesis band have gotten back together, three decades since they last worked together on a show.
“Dance and All That Jazz” teamed up with Synthesis, BYU’s big band jazz ensemble, to debut a powerful, high-energy performance this week. By combining live music with the high-skilled choreographed dances the Contemporary Dance Theatre is known for, audiences can expect a concert unlike any BYU has seen in recent years. Dancers usually choreograph and perform routines to previously recorded music.
Pat Debenham, artistic director for the Contemporary Dance Theatre, has worked with Ray Smith, director of the Synthesis band, in the past. The two last worked together 30 years ago and have been itching to work together ever since.
“The concert that we did many years ago was a great success and it is always wonderful to have live music on stage,” Debenham said. “I think the combination of two very American dance forms — meaning modern/contemporary dance and jazz — are both two performance forms that have grown up together.”
Smith worked with his students for the past semester, making sure they were ready to play for the dancers.
“The dancers choreograph to things that we’ve recorded in the past,” Smith said. “A lot of what we do in jazz is improvised. Because of that they choreograph to things that we didn’t improvise. That isn’t going to happen again. I think it’s more real-life for the dancers. It isn’t exactly the same every single time. They have to roll with the punches.”
Cayel Tregeagle, a freshman majoring in music dance theatre, was surprised how easy it was to work with Synthesis.
“I was a little nervous because it is hard to use live music,” Tregeagle said. “But once we got in there I didn’t even realize they were on the stage. They sounded just like the CD. It was a perfect mesh.”
The concert will include many style pieces, ranging from swing and jazz to modern. One piece titled “CHAKRA” displays the dancers’ strength as they perform on trampolines. In this piece the dancers must pay attention to their rhythm so that the trampoline doesn’t bounce at incorrect times. It also supports their body weight for extended periods of time, requiring incredible strength.
A few of the performances were choreographed by artists outside of the department. One piece, titled “Songs of the Disinherited,” was produced by the Tony Award-winning choreographer Donald McKayle. McKayle used his own life experiences to create a story of society around him.
“He is an African-American choreographer so the piece is about the African-American experience here in America,” Debenham said. “In that piece we use the full company of 15 dancers. We were very fortunate to have him work with our students.”
Allison Loumeau, a senior in the dance major, said the hardest part for the dancers was not to learn the movements of the choreography, but to convey the vision that choreographers had in their head.
“Actually learning the dances wasn’t difficult, the difficult part was to capture the emotion the choreographers wanted,” Loumeau said. “The true art form comes through once a dancer is able to connect the emotion felt through the movement”
The show will run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the de Jong Concert Hall, with one matinee show on Saturday. Tickets are $12.