Melanie George

Educator, Choreographer, Dramaturg, Scholar

WHAT IS NEO-JAZZ?

I see my embrace of neo-jazz, a historically informed jazz style, as a radical act in both the commercial and concert dance worlds. I mine the riff, embrace the shed, cultivate the groove, and seek the pocket.  My willingness to be rhythmic, weighted, and vernacular is purposely perpendicular to the predisposition of valuing modern and contemporary dance over other forms.


Definition

A historically-informed contemporary jazz technique.


Elements

The elements of Neo-Jazz are:

  1. Groundedness and weight sensing

  2. Rhythm and syncopation

  3. Isolations

  4. Weight shift from the pelvis to facilitate complex footwork

  5. Musicality and a deep relationship to jazz music, and its related forms – blues and funk

  6. Improvisation

  7. Acknowledgement of community, while honoring the individual.


Philosophy

Excerpts from the paper Pas de BourSLAY: Making the Case for Neo-Jazz as a Contemporary Jazz Technique, by Melanie George.

“The aforementioned elements outline a framework for neo-jazz technique, absent of prescribed movement or exercises.  Neo-jazz is a broad term meant to encompass differing methods of execution. As in post-modern dance, where we easily differentiate the aesthetic signatures of Trisha Brown and David Gordon yet still recognize a shared perspective on dance, the working definition of neo-jazz recognizes that historically-informed jazz dance may have stylistic differences, yet can still be recognizable by the transparency of lineage.”

“Within that definition is the influence of vernacular jazz dance, and its implied Africanist lineage. Vernacular is purposefully listed first, as it forms the foundation of this work. In composing the definition in this manner, I seek to unseat the privilege of Eurocentric dominance in contemporary jazz dance. The Africanist and Eurocentric influences are in dialogue, but the Eurocentric content, however pervasive it may be in our conventional understanding of contemporary jazz, is not privileged in the neo-jazz aesthetic. As acknowledged by multiple authors in the text Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches, “the roots of jazz dance are African.” Neo-jazz centers that narrative within the work. Furthermore, in the proposition of neo-jazz as fruit from the branches of the jazz dance tree, I seek to tip the heavily weighted scales away from that which is deemed new, hot, or trending within jazz training and visibility towards a more centered continuum. Derivative and innovative are not at odds in neo-jazz.”

 
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