Is Jazz dying? Has Jazz lost its relevance? Absolutely NOT. And there are schools, and conservatories and studios all over the country (and the world for that matter) that are keeping this uniquely American form alive; both as an art form and as a training method.
As you probably already know, I am a product of the great Jazz innovator Luigi. I began my dance training with Luigi HIMSELF 30 years ago. I came to him as a young adult, absolute beginner, and I instantly fell in love with his style, his teaching method, his WORK. I arranged my life so that I could study with him daily. I worked relentlessly to acquire his style and technique; to make it part of my body; part of my being. After a year, I added ballet and modern to my training regimen, but always continued my work with Luigi. I started dancing as an adult; but Luigi, generous of spirit, pulled me aside after class one day and said “It’s not too late for you”. That fueled the fire. In two years I had my first performing contract.
I now spend my professional life passing on the work of my mentor Luigi (as well as the teachings of my ballet teacher Madame Gabriella Darvash- herself a product of Madame Vaganova). Before his passing, Luigi certified me to teach his work and I am now a regular faculty member at the Joffrey Ballet School, NY Film Academy, Molloy College and CAP21 in NYC where I teach classical ballet and the beautiful traditional Jazz style and technique of my beloved Luigi. This technique is not about steps. It is about a deeply personal connection to a WAY OF WORKING. The style, the steps, are indeed beautiful; but that is the tip of the iceberg. I teach the technique exactly the way he taught it. Luigi once said to me “You aren’t the best dancer I’ve ever taught, but you UNDERSTAND my work better than any dancer I ever taught”. And I have endeavored in my career, to keep the work pure. But I teach it in a way that makes the TECHNIQUE, the WAY OF WORKING, a vital and growing METHOD for training dancers. A way to make every other style and discipline better, richer, more colorful, more nuanced. The method has been responsible for the creation of some of the most beautiful, unique, exciting and deeply personal dancers that the stage has ever seen. I remember the feeling in Luigi’s studio; How the whole space vibrated with the excitement that WAS this way of working. And now I get to create that excitement for my students. I am often invited to travel to a school or studio to teach both ballet and the Luigi Jazz technique. I am, at the moment, preparing to return to The Chesco Dance Center in Avondale, PA. Some months back, I made my first trip to this school where I was given the privilege of passing on this work to their students, their next generation of dancers. A beautiful group of dancers who had never been exposed to this kind of work. I wish I could describe the feeling of electricity in that studio as I opened a door for them; a door to a completely new way of working. As teachers; we can not MAKE DANCERS. One either IS a dancer, or one IS NOT a dancer. What we CAN do is provide the tools and the information necessary to become the best dancers our students can be. But even more importantly, this technique, this “old fashioned” “no longer relative” dance style, has allowed me to connect with, dancers, and teachers and PEOPLE in a very deep way. A way that makes me grow as a person.
Is Jazz dying? Is Jazz no longer relevant?
What is Jazz in 2017?
In MY class room it is a beautiful, exciting, vital, growing way to train dancers; steeped in history, connected to the past and looking toward the future.