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April 25, 2010, 2:30 PM

Moving and Playing: Jazz Improvisation and Dance Conversation

Music Performance & Discussion
Participants: Jane Ira Bloom, Carmen De Lavallade, Rufus Reid, Aaron Shafer-Haiss, Andrea Weber

Interdisciplinary collaboration has always interested jazz artists and modern dancers. The song and rhythmic impulse of the body has long inspired jazz musicians, and dancers have always been drawn to the vitality and spontaneity of jazz improvisation. Movement vocabulary—words like "swing"—is often used to describe states of sound, and dancers often use sonic terms to describe the musical qualities of movement phrases. Do musicians and dancers use improvisation in the same way? If the same piece of music were presented to two different dancers, how would their interpretations vary? Two world-class dancer/choreographers, Carmen De Lavallade and Andrea Weber, team up with renowned bassist Rufus Reid, saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, and percussionist Aaron Shafer-Haiss to address these and other questions through improvisation and discussion.

Jane Ira Bloom is a soprano saxophonist, composer, and a pioneer in the use of live electronics and movement in jazz. She is the winner of the 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition, the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award for lifetime service to jazz, the Jazz Journalists Association Award and the Downbeat International Critics Poll for soprano saxophone, and the Charlie Parker Fellowship for jazz innovation. Bloom was the first musician commissioned by the NASA Art Program and has an asteroid named in her honor by the International Astronomical Union. She has received numerous commissions and has composed for the American Composers Orchestra, the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, and the Pilobolus Dance Theater, integrating jazz performers in new settings. She has recorded and produced 13 albums of her music and holds degrees from Yale University and the Yale School of Music. Bloom is currently on the faculty of the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in NYC. Her latest release is the award-winning CD, Mental Weather.

Carmen De Lavallade is a dancer, actress, and choreographer who made her professional debut with the Lester Horton Dance Theater, where she was a lead dancer from 1950 to 1954. She went on to perform, and later choreograph, for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. In 1954 she made her Broadway debut in Truman Capote's House of Flowers. De Lavallade danced as the prima ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera in productions of Aida and Samson and Delilah, and was a guest artist with the American Ballet Theater. In the late '60s, she joined the Yale Repertory Theater as an actor and movement teacher. Between 1990 and 1993, she returned to the Metropolitan Opera as choreographer for Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger, among other productions. De Lavallade has appeared in several major motion pictures, including John Sayle's Lone Star and Big Daddy, starring Adam Sandler. She is the recipient of honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Adelphi University, Bloomfield College, SUNY Purchase, and the Juilliard School. De Lavallade was named the Ellington Fellow at Yale University and awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Metropolitan College of New York in 2008.

Rufus Reid is a forty-five year veteran bassist with over 350 recordings in his discography. His book and DVD, The Evolving Bassist, is recognized as an industry standard for the definitive bass method. He is the recipient of the 2006 ASCAP/IAJE Commission for Established Composer for "Hues of a Different Blue," and he received the 2006 Raymond Sackler Composition Commission Prize for "Quiet Pride." The album, Rufus Reid Quintet: Live at the Kennedy Center, was released by Motéma Music in 2007, and Reid was awarded a Gugenheim Fellowship for composition in 2008.

Aaron Shafer-Haiss is a drummer and percussionist based in Brooklyn. He has performed with artists as diverse as renowned Argentinian composer/guitarist Jose Luis Merlin, Rob Curto's Forro for All, Frank London, Verve/Impulse artist Jose James, Cyro Baptista, and Billy Martin. A graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Aaron also spent 6 months in northeast Brazil studying the rich folkloric music of the region. Considered one of the most well versed Americans in the music of Pernambuco (northeast Brazil), he recently co-authored an instructional book on Maracatu de Baque Virado with Scott Kettner.

Andrea Weber has danced and taught for Canadian based Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, participating in the Manitoba Project in August 2007 and in the Gros Mourne Project in July 2006. In November 2006, Weber danced an excerpt from Jessica Lang's Splendid Isolation II for Kanji Segawa's Dance Project New York. She has assisted and staged Lila York's works for ballet companies throughout the United States and in Denmark. Weber was a collaborator in Anne Carson's Possessive Used As Drink (Me). In 2008, Weber performed in Stacks, a collaboration between Carson, Jonah Bokaer, and Peter Cole. She has also worked with Charlotte Griffin, Sue Bernhard and Ellen Cornfield. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Weber joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in January of 2004. She has performed Merce's work around the world and is currently a faculty member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio.

This program is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.


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