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Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

Part Three of The BRAND Associates Dance Series ~ Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIGUA DANCE ~ Presents excerpts from "Songs My Mother Taught Me."

Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

It was another lovely early evening of pure dance bliss. Sun still shining on another ideal California spring day; the final performance in the three-part dance series by nine talented and soul-sharing dancers included Shari Washington Rhone, Justin Edmonson, Latrice Postell, Kacy Keys, Chris Smith, Tashara Gavin-Moorehead, Laura Ann Smyth, Alex Rasmussen and Bernard Brown; all a part of JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble. They performed mainly outside on the grounds surrounding the Library.

This was the third and final performance of the Brand Associates Dance series that included Nickerson-Rossi Dance, Tropicaleiza and 4 weekends of workshops.

Pat Taylor is a master at her craft. She created and is Artistic Director/Choreographer for the prestigious jazz dance company established in 1993. She not only chooses her music, dancers, production people, etc. to gel with her initial idea for a dance piece; she develops it with input from all the dancers as well, and creates through her emotions, her knowledge, love and history in Dance, and what she draws from each of her full-of-joy/life dancers... and they are into it!

Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library The program consists of excerpts from a new work they are now continuing to develop, after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, entitled "Songs My Mother Taught Me," which, Pat Taylor explained, "celebrates music and reflections by renowned African-American women that are jazz artists, activists and engagers. It is a celebration of community, and a soul-stirring shout-out to living, learning and loving.

Enveloping and invoking the feelings of freedom versus suppression, each dance piece was carved out by listening first, to the words of the jazz song, or the melodic intent. The choreography was developed by Pat Taylor along with the dancers input. A lot of improvisation in the making of... which I especially enjoyed watching... it delves into the roots of the African-American experience and history, and discovering by awareness what is the current reality...A beautiful, collaborative creation with depth and dignity.

So organic. So soul-fulfilling. This is JazzAntiqua. It's just an all-around joyful event, whenever they perform. The steps, the line, the technique is all there, but it's the feelings and emotions that are felt from each dancer that makes the choreography come alive.

This, again, confirms to me, there is nothing more moving and exhilarating than attending live performances. Just sayin'...

The first dance piece perfectly set a mood. "It Ain't Necessarily So," composed in 1935 by the Gershwin brothers, for the opera "Porgy and Bess," and played and arranged by theReview: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

"First Lady of Jazz," the great jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams, was eloquently danced by Shari Washington Rhone and Justin Edmonson. Starting center stage, they begin nice and easy to the marvelously syncopated rhythm just doing a simple box step around each other. A slight smile from Shari lets us know that this is gonna be fun. The movements grow and are embellished as the music kicks into a fabulous groove. As the dance progresses we feel a connection between the two, a flirtatious vibe that we, the audience definitely feel too. It's infectious. Both dancers are so light on their feet, and enjoy each other, playfully swaying, pirouetting and shoulder shrugging just at the right moments. There are quick glances, between the two, also perpetuating the coquetry, that might have been choreographed specifically, also. You felt their connection as they made eye contact, which added to the progression of the piece, both musically and choreographically. A nice blending of the two that captures exactly the right feel. They glide as they dance, with a carefree, fun feeling. Justin's solo was filled with joyful spins, turns into layouts and a series of emboites. The last section was a wonderful combination sprinkled with contractions on the syncopated beat that accented their feelings. Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library So nice.

Immediately following, " I Won't Crumble With You If You Fall," was a stirring gospel piece sung by Chris Smith, Latrice Postell, Alex Rasmussen and Laura Ann Smyth.

The composer (and singer, song leader, educator, scholar and social activist) Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, a major cultural voice for freedom and justice, has stated, ""Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."

Which is what this piece invoked, in a most celabratory way. Lots of heartfelt lunges, arms raised to the heavens, calling on God in prayer and earnest desire. The dancers' strong technique, strength and conviction to the movements was reverent and compassionate.

Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

The next piece, "The Gathering," was performed by the entire company, with passes across the floor doing jazz walks, relating to each other, covering the entire stage area; a nice section with slow head rolls, breaking into solos and duets filled with passion and conviction. The music, by Geri Allen, another of the richly talented African-American jazz artists, is inspiring and innovative. The dancers emulate freedom, openness, in a very precise way. It is a testimony to the belief that community makes a difference. "Jazz is premised on the idea of community. And that by honoring and elevating the individual voice, the whole -- whether a band, dance company or an entire community -- is uplifted and that much stronger." Beautiful work.

Thank you, Pat Taylor, for giving us some background about the next piece, and your thorough process in creating; researching, choosing the right music, envisioning the choreography... which all enriches what you then put to your dancers and collaborate from there. Your pre-production work shows, through your dancers' stirring performances.

Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Mississippi in 1917. The child of sharecroppers, Miss Hamer and her mother would often sing songs that expressed the difficulties of the labor and reflected a desire for a better life.

Miss Hamer became a fierce advocate for the rights of African Americans and the rights of women, and frequently led and inspired the charge through song. She is one of the most important, passionate and powerful voices in the civil rights and voting rights movements.

A favorite quote of hers. She once said: "If I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off." Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

Set to stories told and spirituals sung by Fannie Lou Hamer, Tashara Gavin-Moorehead presented a most significant solo filled with emotion, conviction and grace. Every movement, every beat, was filled with organic immediate emotions to the words Ms. Flack was relating. Fannie Lou is one of the most important, passionate and powerful voices in the civil rights and voting rights movements, and I am witness to the authenticity of this impassioned portrayal. All while executing beautiful modern technique. We felt, with her, every range of emotion and outburst she felt. An extraordinary performance.

The last two pieces were heavenly.

"Tryin' Times", by Roberta Flack, was part one of a soulful two-part piece performed by the entire company. The well-known song was recorded in 1969, so long ago, and addressed the civil unrest during that era. Unfortunately, it is still extremely relevant today. After being individually introduced by Ms. Taylor, the dancers began to back up to a bass line beginning, setting the pulse and rhythm as they also pulsed, lunged and contracted, while hitting each beat. They took turns soloing, or in trios or a duet as they pitched, double-pirouetted in attitude and moved across the stage, changing formations, while emoting the words through their bodies, deeply feeling emersed. Bernard Brown solos, hitting the syncopated beats sharp and expressively, while wowing us with technical prowess in a nice double-attitude leap. The dancers stay down low, into the ground, and then up high, Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library reaching out, smoothly transitioning, feeling the lyrics to "Tryin' Times.'

The second part to this piece was a very moving selection, "Mwana Talitambula," from the Abayudaya, an African-Jewish community in Uganda, performed by jazz violinist Regina Carter, and by the two male dancers with the company, Bernard Brown and Justin Edmonson. This was a moment to enjoy the two of them, each soloing and proficiently giving us beautiful technique, with much expression. Bernard begins with slow, controlled contractions, chaineing, leaning back, with legs out in a split, on his toes, continuing with leaps and spinning to his knees; then joined by Justin, barrel-turning across stage, ending with a leap-turn in attitude, contracting, as we feel his connection with the violin, giving his whole self to the feelings, while covering ground, reaching beyond the reach. It was an emotionally felt performance, and we, the audience could feel it. Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

The final piece, by Nina Simone, "I Wish I Knew How It would Feel To Be Free," was the entire company performing, with a beginning solo by Justin Edmonson. Named the High Priestess of Soul, as Pat Taylor related, "Ms. Simone is one of the most extraordinary artists of the 20th century. A musical storyteller, a griot, she created a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through an incredible body of work. Another powerful voice of the civil rights movement, she believed that 'an artist's duty is to reflect the times'... And that 'freedom means, no fear.'"

Nina's voice, "It's just a feeling," she begins, speaking of freedom, while Justin enacts her words. The deep-felt contractions, arms outstretched in faith and guidance, the movements become larger and more intense, becoming more free and joyful, with a nice, clean triple pirouette to top it off. Others join in, again, soloing and dueting in impassioned combinations that flow nicely, changing patterns and filling the space with energized reverence and joy that spread out to the audience. Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

Each dancer deserves recognition and are all unique: Shari Washington Rhone, Justin Edmonson, Latrice Postell, Kacy Keys, Chris Smith, Tashara Gavin-Moorehead, Laura Ann Smyth, Alex Rasmussen and Bernard Brown.

Mind you, we were outside on the Library grounds watching most of the performance, in daylight, so it was up close and personal, giving the audience a chance to be close to the action and more involved. As well, after the last piece, the dancers stayed on as Ms. Taylor graciously offered the audience to have a Q & A with the cast, which was quite interesting.

Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library I had the opportunity to review the JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble for the first and only other time in 2018 as they celebrated their 25th Anniversary as a Company. It was outstanding, and so uplifting. Quite a different venue than this, that included their fabulous Music Ensemble, Guest Vocalists and Poets; in a proscenium theatre; more of a production and event, and I was instantly a fan. This is the link to that review:

/los-angeles/article/BWW-Review-JAZZANTIQUA-PRESENTS-FREEDOM-JAZZ-DANCE-IN-THEIR-25TH-ANNIVERSARY-CONCERT-A-CELEBRATION-OF-THE-HEART-at-The-Nate-Holden-Performing-Arts-Center-20181208.

Jamie Nichols, curator for this yearly anticipated event, sponsored by Brand Associates, thanked everyone involved in putting it together and spoke of their invaluable input. "...the amazing staff at The Brand; huge thanks to Erin Herzog, Art Librarian; Caley Cannon, Supervisor and Greg Gonzalez our trusted sound operator! I love being the curator of the Brand Associate's Dance Series. It's such an honor to select the companies and share rare, beautiful dance art to the public." Review: Pat Taylor's JAZZANTIQUA DANCE Illuminates The Brand Library

After the performance I got a chance to speak with some of the dancers. Justin Edmonson was a standout from the beginning to end, but that did not diminish the other radiant personalities and expressive modern dancing that was seen.

I'm hoping Justin won't mind me quoting him; as part of our conversation afterwards, we were discussing the feelings and thoughts behind the movements as you are doing them and how important that really is. It makes a difference in the performance and makes it more organic; something you feel with your heart while you are doing it:

"As I continue to keep stepping into my adulthood I understand more and more what Mr. Ailey always talks about dance being given back to the people and that in action has so much freedom in itself." ~~ Justin Edmonson, quotinging Alvin Ailey Jr.

Looking forward to more performances where the company is constantly growing, improving, giving back, delving deep into important issues and expressing their perspectives with truth, honesty and genuine emotions, through Dance and the Arts.

JazzAntiqua is in residence at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center / Ebony Repertory Theatre, in Los Angeles, CA.

Please check out http://www.jazzantiqua.org for information on their many programs and opportunities, and their upcoming performance schedule.

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Photos Courtesy of George Simian, Jamie Nichols and Dulce Capadocia



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