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Jazzing It Up


Casey Dexter
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Junior Joanna Zepeta, freshman Claire Hancock and senior Rachael Ashley practice for "Jazz in America." The dance majors' performance is part of the Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase.

By Brett Gerlach
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 27, 1999

With the talent of our own faculty and guest choreographers visiting from as far away as Switzerland, the UA Dance department is sure to kick into full swing Thursday night with yet another Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase.

The event begins Thursday night with the "Jazz in Arizona" dance concert which is open to both students and the public. The performance is only one part of the Arizona Jazz Dance Showcase. Dancers and choreographers from various dance schools, dance companies and colleges around the country will be coming to the University of Arizona for several performances and discussions.

The showcase is the brainchild of Dance department head Jory Hancock and faculty members Susan Quinn and Michael Williams. Eight years ago, when this jazz tradition at the UA began, there were only 88 participants. Since then, the event has danced its way up to the 750 participants that will be expected this coming weekend.

The UA has rightfully earned its spot as host of such a prestigious event. Many faculty members belonging to the Dance department have either danced professionally themselves or have been in the business for close to 30 years. The UA is also a pioneer of jazz programs, as it is one of the only universities in the nation to have such an extensive jazz program.

According to co-founder Susan Quinn, jazz is known as one of the most entertaining dance forms around. However, it has been shunned in the past because jazz, which took form in 1919, has not been performed as long as more traditional dance forms, such as ballet.

A university jazz program is as unique as the dance itself, and with the help of the showcase, the UA's Dance department is certainly keeping on its toes. Quinn claims that as many as 10 other universities are developing their jazz programs to compete with the University of Arizona's impressive ranking. The competition is even tougher, however, for performers wishing to gain a spot to twirl and pirouette on stage this weekend. Friday night's invitational, open to showcase participants only, features only dancers Quinn has pre-auditioned from the multitude of tapes she has received in planning this event.

Thursday's performance, however, will feature pieces choreographed by both the University of Arizona and visiting faculty.

There is no specific agenda for what mood may dance its way out onto the floor this Thursday night. There will be comedy pieces choreographed by both guest artist Dana Fykerud from Switzerland and Sam Watson, the UA's latest addition to the Dance department. Also expected to keep the mood light is Michael Williams' 008, a dance that will prove enjoyable to James Bond fans.

In contrast to these lighter pieces, St. Theresa, a dance piece choreographed by Susan Quinn, is a much more lyrical work focusing on a woman going through hard times. The dance features her constant tug of war between relying on the support of her friends and trusting her own independence. Each woman's different personality is represented on the dance floor with the unique emotions and movement of each dancer. Both the extremely powerful music and the emotional expression of the dancers gives the audience a sense of dance and theatrical performance combined into one.

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