GET IN ON THE TEEN SCENES
TEEN REVIEWERS AND CRITICS
LINKS TO OTHER COOL STUFF
Ivana Ng (Multi-TRaC, Fall 05) Reviews Garth Fagan Dance and the Wynton Marsalis Septet at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Stairway to JazzGriot, meaning a West African oral storyteller, surprisingly takes no precedence in Garth Fagan and Wynton Marsalis' collaboration, Griot New York. Instead, the audience is treated to a medley of dance interpretations, not all consistent with one another. It seemed to be a "Best of" performance of selected works, rather than one that was telling a single story. Although the dance numbers were well choreographed, and the amazing contortions achieved by the dancers of Garth Fagan Dance Company were intriguing and beguiling, it was Marsalis' passionately intricate music that captured my ears and eyes.
Throughout the show, I found myself glimpsing into the orchestra pit, watching the cellist craftily pluck the strings and listening to the trumpet moan and sing. The orchestra was jocular and lighthearted, but they also captured the mood of the scenes brilliantly. Marsalis incorporated hints of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to compose an original masterpiece. Somehow, he managed to give each instrument priority; the trumpet crooned soulfully; the cello portrayed stealthy, quiet scenes effortlessly; and the saxophone's distinct sound gave depth to the tangos, the salsas and everything in between.
While listening to the memorable jazz, Fagan provides visual stimuli for the audience with interpretive dance numbers. Enlarged inanimate objects differentiate each of the nine scenes of Griot New York. In the third act, "Bayou Baroque," a large staircase fading into the background sets up a scene profiling the poor. The staircase, to me at least, represented a stairway to heaven, or a social ladder of sorts. Unfortunately, the symbolism of the rest of the objects were lost on me.
Even so, I cannot help but marvel at Fagan's choreography and the dancers' immense talent. Fagan makes use of the unique abilities of individual dancers, allowing each performer the limelight during the performance, and he often develops certain moves into slow, segmented waltzes; for instance, he used the fusion of two bodies frequently. In one scene, two dancers in the foreground slid across the stage and back in sluggish, worm-like progression for the duration of the scene with one seated on top of the other. Their endurance is worthy of contortionists in Cirque du Soleil, and the choreography, of Olympic ice-skaters.
On the whole, Griot New York was satisfying. The dance performances were visually appealing, though I found the acrobatic contortionists more fascinating than beautiful. Alas, choreography was, for the most part, inconsequential to me. Nevertheless, the bulk of my praise comes from my deep fondness for jazz and the brass instruments. Marsalis' music, or any jazz music for that matter, can never be lost on me; therefore,Griot New York is a "must-hear" for any avid jazz fan, especially of 1950's musicians such as Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.