A Look In The Mirror pt. 1

I do a lot of reviews here when big events come around, mostly of other people’s artistic expression, and I think it’s at least about time I did the same for one of my own pieces. A look in the mirror perhaps.

The piece I’m going to review is a couples choreography presented at ALHC 2007 by Caroline Rossi and myself, Carl Nelson, to a song by Duke Ellington entitled Goin’ Nuts. I’ll try to give some inside thoughts on what it was like choreographing it and some thoughts on the end result now that I’ve seen it in a second part to this article.

I’ll start with some of the highlights.

The first three swing-outs starting at 0:31 with the break into slow-motion followed by the flapper hands-on-knees is decidedly one of my favorite parts; with a solid flow of energy and good use of traditional slow-motion in connection with the muted trumpet over top. Starting at 1:12 with the shoe shine and ending with the donny-break variations, the lines are nice and movement well-executed, and the hits of positions align nicely with the hits in the music. The kick-away spun back into closed at 2:15 feels dynamic and provides a welcome difference from a straight-up kick-away.

For some of my critiques:

I’ll begin with some of the solo movement; it is not always timed together (i.e. at 0:53 the breakdowns are not together), the individual motions are not sharp enough to be distinct (applejacks at 1:10), the landings into the jazz splits are sloppy and not well timed with the music (1:20), and the around the world charleston at 2:03 lacks synchrony between the partners and would have enjoyed more energy. For partnered movement; the aerial at 1:24 needed to be cleaner, the jump-for-joy at 1:44 could have had better lines and more energy, the exit from the rag doll at 2:00 needed more pop, and finally the hand-to-hand charleston needed to be sharper.

Overall, the routine was well-danced with solid energy and its musicality was neatly inline with the music. The couple set a consistent playful tone for the routine which also matched well with the music. However it needed more polish to help improve clarity and difficult moves, like the air steps. Personal movement was also occasionally blurred by hands or arms not working in conjunction with the steps, adding just enough extraneous movement that it subtracted from the focus.

What are your thoughts on this routine?  What did you feel needed improvement or worked well?  Let me know.

Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Carl, I like your routine. I liked it even better when I saw it live, but isn’t that always the case? In general, I agree with your assessments. You and Caro are both really great dancers and your movement is usually very well-defined. I know you could have done better. But given that you only had two days to practice together before the competition, I think you did really great.

    You picked a difficult song–one that I’m having trouble getting into–and I think, for me, what it lacks is a shape. You’re right that your musicality is strong, but I think you could have gotten more interesting dynamics if you’d chosen something different.

  2. Hey Bryn,

    I’m always intrigued by peoples song choices for choreographies. By lack of shape what do you mean, and can you provide some examples of songs with “shape”?

    In part 2 I’ll explain the song choice more.

  3. […] Look In The Mirror pt. 2 I began a review of one of my own choreographies in part 1 of A Look In The Mirror which took a critical look at the routine. In this section I hope to provide some insight into the […]

  4. By shape, I mean I don’t feel as though the song takes me anywhere. There’s no story… no beginning, middle, and end. Which means that the dynamics lie fairly flat. Does that help to explain it at all?

  5. Yes, that helps, but do you have an example of a song that possesses those qualities to you?

  6. Hm, there are lots of examples I could think of, but since I’m currently working with this song, I’ll say Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me – Sidney Bechet. It starts off with a simple presentation of the theme, and then each time the theme comes back, it has a completely different feeling. It feels as though it’s telling me a story. It has high points and low points. I could probably draw a squiggly line to visually represent the song (that’s where I got the shape analogy from).

    Granted, it’s a really long song, and therefore needs to be cut in order to use it for a routine. It’s risky business deciding which parts to eliminate because it does depend so heavily on the flow of that journey.

    But anyway, I think that most jazz tunes that are popular for dancing have this type of structure to them. It makes it easy to relate, and also interesting to play with the different levels and rhythms as the song goes on.

  7. Very good answer and I agree with your idea of shape here. The idea of a theme that is repeated and built upon is a standard method in jazz music to allow improvisation and continuity at the same time.

    It is especially prevalent in blues forms, and Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me is a wonderful example.

    For “Goin’ Nuts” there is definitely a theme in my mind, although because of the style of the song it is less identifiable and the repetition less noticeable. The breaking theme with the scat vocal repeats via instrumentation and voice a few times, and the switch to the driving rhythm section is a consistent theme.

    Regarding dynamics, I think it has also to do with the recording technology at the time it was recorded against more modern recordings. Goin’ Nuts was recorded in 1929 while Blues My Naughty Sweetie in 1951 (from what I can find). That’s a 20 year difference in sound recording quality. Not to excuse the song, but I think the dynamics are there, just in a more muted way.

  8. […] A Look In The Mirror I wrote about the creation process of a competition piece but not about the competition […]

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