Three contemporary works highlighted the Fall Dance Concert in 2017. With its circular stage space, curving ramps and central spire, Associate Professor Christopher Dolder’s new version of Bolero was equal parts architectural art and bio-mechanical physics experiment. The interactive set and video-projected imagery compel the dancers to accelerate, ascend and literally vault into space in feats of virtuosic toroidal motion.
Moncell Durden’s Drop Me Off in Harlem(1937) used vernacular jazz movement to recount the adventures of three ladies from Pennsylvania, who travel to New York City to dance at the famous Savoy Ballroom and watch the battle of the bands between Benny Goodman and Chick Webb. Recently, Choreographer Moncell Durden posted a can’t-miss video: a close-up look at his work from the 2017 Meadows Fall Dance Concert.
Here’s an excerpt from his post:
I created, developed and staged this choreography in September 2017 for the students at SMU Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, Texas. The show is 18:17min long and is a dedication to Jazz musicians and dancers of the 1940s in Harlem New York. Take a journey with three amazing woman as they prepare to navigate the streets in the “Land o’ Darkness” (Harlem) this “early black” (evening) into the “frolic pad” (nightclub) to hear the bands “beat it out” (play hot music) as they get in the groove with all the other “rug cutters” (very good dancer) in the “cat’s corner” (the North East corner of the savoy where some of the best dancers gathered). All the words and phrases in quotations are how people used to talk in Harlem in those days. This language promoted Cab Calloway to publish his Hepter’s dictionary which contained all the words and phrases of the day. “Righteous”(okay)
The first number titled Vines to the Nines, (a vine is your clothes) pays homage to three dancer/performers Norma Miller, 1919- (age 99) known as the “Queen of Swing” is the last living dancer of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, Dawn Hampton (1928-2016) an American cabaret and jazz singer, saxophonist, dancer and songwriter, Mable Lee (1921-(age 97) an American jazz tap dancer, singer and entertainer.
2. The St. Clair girls: Stephanie St. Clair (1886-1969) was a mob boss who was Bumpy Johnson mentor. Johnson was the mentor to Frank Lucas who was played by American Actor Denzel Washington in the movie American Gangster.
3. Cotton Tail, this scene takes place in the Cotton club (this club was white only, except for the performers) and begins with waiters setting the tables, escorting and serving guests, there are even candy strip girls (cigaret girls), and a lovely floor show by the Cotton Tail chorus girls.
4. Mood Indigo, a blues number where the patrons break out into a dance number set to Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong song Mood Indigo
5. Stomping at the Savoy, this number honors the Savoy Ballroom, the “Home of Happy Feet,” “the cat’s corner,” and the only integrated ballroom in New York City at that time.
6. Yeah Man, the bows are set to Louis Armstrong’s song Drop Me Off in Harlem