Jazz Session with San Francisco Ballet Students

18 Jun

Wendy Van Dyck, who coordinates San Francisco Ballet’s advanced students performing group, cast an inquiring eye at the arrival of the San Francisco Jazz Center edifice on Franklin and Fell Streets and her inquiry bore remarkable fruit. With the aid of the program director at the Center, Erin Putnam, eleven advanced San Francisco Ballet students collaborated with six 2014-2015 SF Jazz High School all-Stars Comb, S.F. Jazz Center’s students led by Dann Zinn, in a combined improvisation and structured event at the Jazz Center’s Theatre, coming together on April 21

The Center’s amphitheatre seating exposed the eleven dancers, five young women, six young men relentlessly but did not deter their improvisations. Restrictions were based on the space itself or the line of fellow dancers awaiting their turn.

Such a handsome, well honed set of bodies, joy to watch! The height and shape of both genders were models of what steady study, diet and discipline can provide the adolescent. One of my favorite parts of classicism in the human body, the arms, clearly reflected the definition of the upper arm without which strapless or sleeveless garments for women look frumpy,and and many possessors oblivious to the contours exposed in a full-length mirror.

As expected, there was much space devouring and aerial competence by the dancers; a few chose some floor work, but it was clear ballet discipline emphasizes reach, stretch and musical acuity. With Dana Genshaft as choreographer, it was apparent that the weightedness of modern dance has yet to balance ballet’s emphasis on lightness and position precision, for modern dance has a closer and visceral kinship with jazz.

I am in no position to evaluate the six musicians’ ability, but their support of the dancers was solid and included Paul Desmond’s Take Five and a number by Oscar Levant, Blame It on My Youth. It should be noted that the young musicians’ dedication included commuting from the mid-Peninsula outside of school hours.

The musicians listed were: Akili Bradley, trumpet; Matt Richards, alto; Eric Nakanishi, tenor; Matt Wong, piano; Kanoa Mendenhall, Bass; Benjamin Ring, drums.

I think either Patrick Armand, the Associate Director of the San Francisco Ballet School, or Wendy Van Dyck, mentioned that the students’ native countries numbered nine. They were: Hadriel Diniz; Daniel Domenech; Blake Kessler; Anastasia Kubanda; Shene Lazarus; Daniel McCormick; Haruo Niyama; Davide Occhipinti; Chisako Oga; Francisco Sebastiao; Natasha Sheehan.

A brief Q and A followed the hour-long program.

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