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Uniting music and dance to give shape to a musical mood, Threnodies follows the rich tradition of improvisational jazz

click to enlarge Rhonda Baker - CHERYL GRAUL
  • Rhonda Baker
  • Cheryl Graul

Susanne Chui, soon-to-be artistic director of Mocean Dance, has been working hard with three contemporary dance artists choreographing six pieces by nationally-recognized jazz guitarist Geordie Haley.

A novel performance for the Halifax Jazz Festival, Threnodies unites music and dance to give shape to the mood that the music inspires. Drawing on blues, Threnodies laments the state of the world as dancers express the emotions through the body. "The desire to create music and the desire to dance both live in the body, and often these desires coincide," says Chui, explaining the natural relationship between song and dance. "All movement has a rhythm, your heart beating, your lungs breathing, there is music inside of you."

Following the rich tradition of improvisational jazz, Chui has made space for spontaneity in the performances using animalistic forms of movement, as well as concept themes, like the idea of unravelling. "Within the songs, there are sections of improvisation like solos and there are sections that are task-oriented, but the performers compose within the tasks," Chui says. "The dancers can respond to how they feel or how the music is affecting them in the moment."

With four musicians and three dangers onstage, Threnodies is an aural and visual experience that will be unique over the three nights, each with a different following act.

"What I like about improvisation is the surprise," she says, both for the audiences and the performers. "We can't plan our reactions, and that's exciting." Even though there are structures to Haley's and Chui's compositions. The performances, she says, begin with a conflict, arc at a lament and tumble toward resolution. "Although Threnodies is melancholic in tone," Chui says, "there can be so much joy in the release. In the consolation, so much compassion and beauty and peace." --AY

Threnodies, Granelli, Crofts, Oore & Oore, Thursday, July 12 at Neptune, Studio Theatre, 8pm, $20/$18


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