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Get Jazzy with NDEO This Summer!
By Susan McGreevy-Nichols
Posted on 6/20/2019 4:57 PM

Calling all jazz dance enthusiasts! You won’t want to miss the opportunity to gather with like-minded colleagues from across the country at NDEO’s second jazz-focused Special Topic Conference this July! Jazz Dance: Hybrids, Fusions, Connections, Community will bring together a community of jazz dance artists, educators, and practitioners to share and deepen their understanding of what jazz dance is today, in all its vibrant shapes and forms, and how it might continue to evolve. Join us Tuesday June 30 through Friday August 2, 2019 at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI. The conference will consist of movement sessions and classes, paper presentations and panels, jam sessions, networking and social events, and choreography workshops with master jazz dance educators and NDEO member-presenters from across the country.


This year’s conference is a follow-up to the 2016 Special Topic Conference Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches in Practice. At the 2016 conference, professionals employed in higher education, dance studios, K-12 schools, and performing arts organizations gathered to explore jazz dance history, celebrate the development of jazz as an art form, and enjoy workshops and classes from jazz masters such as Bob Boross, Moncell Durden, and Karen Hubbard.


Despite attendee’s diversity in workplaces, backgrounds, and interests, the hallmarks of the event were connection and community. According to Pat Cohen, a member of the conference organizing committee, “My strongest impression of the 2016 conference was the sense of community that was established over 3 days, presided over and guided by knowledgeable jazz enthusiast, educator, dancer and choreographer, the late Thom Cobb. I believe that we created a uniquely warm and inclusive environment, in which our community experienced many facets of jazz dance in a judgment-free zone.” Conference attendees agreed:


“I loved the intimate setting and the fact that the group was together during the morning sessions with the master presenters. I thought this created an environment for communal experience of each of the classes, whether someone was participating or watching or both. The atmosphere was supportive of all of the varying perspectives of jazz dance.”


Both the formal and informal discussions were provocative, inspiring, and incredible! Smart, passionate advocates for jazz dance in many arenas felt safe to share thoughts and chew on different ideas, especially those relating to social justice and advocacy.”


To foster this sense of community and allow for networking and informal discussion, several social events are included in conference registration. These events became highlights for many 2016 attendees. As Cohen notes, the traditional New England Clambake with dancing to live jazz music, and the jam session in the beautiful campus Rose Garden proved to be particularly memorable experiences. The 2019 conference will again feature a New England Clambake and dance party, as well as presentations of two very special films. Transmission: Roots to Branches, a documentary by Khadifa Wong, and Moncell Durden’s 64 Everything Remains Raw: Hip Hop Dance in Context will both be shown during the conference, with discussions with the creators to follow each screening.


Each day of the conference opens with a morning session shared by all attendees, exploring traditional and theatrical manifestations of jazz dance with master teachers. Attendees of the 2016 attendees were excited about these sessions, noting: “The level of the presenters was legendary!” and “I loved the classes offered by the incredible master teachers and how they connected common ideas and themes.” In the afternoon, attendees have their choice of breakout sessions, including paper and panel presentations by NDEO members, discussions, and choreography workshops.


Jazz Dance: Hybrids, Fusions, Connections, Community is being curated by an NDEO member committee, including Helene Scheff, Lindsay Guarino, and Pat Cohen, who organized the 2016 conference, along with Melanie George and Carlos Jones. Member feedback and suggestions were offered at NDEO National Conference Sessions in 2017 and 2018 and have been incorporated into the planning of this year’s event.


This year’s theme of Jazz Dance: Hybrids, Fusions, Connections, and Community builds upon the rich and thought-provoking environment created in the last conference and at follow-up sessions at NDEO National Conferences. Just a few of the questions to be explored at this year’s event include:


  • What styles and aesthetics fuse together in your signature jazz style and how do you trace your jazz lineage? Do you see the African roots in today’s jazz dance practices, and how do you teach jazz in a way that honors its origins? How do globalization, technology, and social media inspire new hybrids and fusions that are rooted in jazz dance?

  • Does your jazz practice unite diverse populations or serve your community in a unique way? How does jazz connect to race, racism, gender, age? How do you build relationships across sectors, ages, cultures? Do you have an innovative way of using jazz to engage, inspire, or effect change in your community?

  • In what ways do you interact with colleagues to advance jazz dance in your teaching environment and your community? What is the position of jazz dance in your place of employment, and how do you advocate for jazz dance? Do you engage in or utilize research in your practice?


For the true lover of all things jazz, consider extending your stay after the conference to catch the world famous Newport Jazz Festival. The event encompasses 3 full days of music from August 2nd to 4th at Fort Adams State Park. Admission to the festival is separate and is not included in conference registration.


To learn more and register for Jazz Dance: Hybrids, Fusions, Connections, Community, click here. Accommodations are available the in Salve Regina residence halls. The residence halls provide a more affordable lodging option than most local hotels and are within walking distance of the conference sessions and events. The deadline to register is June 30, 2019 if you would like to include lodging.


Read Jazz Hands On, an article about 2016’s Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches in Practice by Karen White for Dance Studio Life Magazine.
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