Sunday, February 2, 2003

Buraczeski's Jazzdance irresistible

Dance review

Carol Norris
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jazzdance by Danny Buraczeski made its umpteenth visit to Cincinnati this weekend. Sponsor Contemporary Dance Theater and director Jefferson James have made it a habit to keep Buraczeski coming back, seemingly unable to get enough of his dynamic jazz innovations.

He's at his best when mining complex rhythmic music for the pulse that drives it. In two works on the program - his latest, "Las Quatro Estaciones" and the 1998 "Ezekiel's Wheel" - it is the latter that reveals his genius most satisfactorily.

By the time his young company of nine gifted dancers cuts loose in that work's finale, you feel your own natural impulses grooving to the groove. It's a response to the percussive builds in Philip Hamilton's dynamic score and Buraczeski's interpretation of them - an irresistible combination.

With piano, vocals and percussion interspersed with words from author James Baldwin, Buraczeski searches to express "... spiritual activism and physical engagement ..." It's a dance full of images - a dancer alone in a spotlight, dancers taking a knee with a sense of mourning, a circle of never-ending movement that unexpectedly disappears. It's a complete collaboration of sound, music and design.

Jazzdance is usually about Duke Ellington and swinging moves and a classic jazz style. In "Las Quatro Estaciones" (The Four Seasons) Buraczeski leaves his signature style shelved. To the tango sounds of Astor Piazzolla, gorgeously interpreted on tape by Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica, the dancing takes a modern turn.

Led by the statuesque and richly talented Mary Ann Bradley of Dayton, the work includes lyrical, dreamy moments. But in spite of its layered textures, the movement for four couples gets bogged down in too much pattern.

In love with the music since he first heard it on the radio, Buraczeski has created a dance that is too slavish to it. He should have trusted his own talents as much as he admires Piazzolla's.

The score is rich and includes witty references to Vivaldi in each season, but the dances for four couples are too one-dimensional - the movement is repetitious and has an organized feel to it, rather than a spontaneous celebration of the music.

For the first time, this visit did not include the choreographer onstage; he's made the decision to pull back from performing. Not to worry - his young company performs eloquently.

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