All That Jazz

The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

11/10/2012 - 14/10/2012

The Body Festival 2012

Production Details

As the African slaves arrived into America, they brought with them the vigour and expression of their homeland in the form of music and dance. As these influences roared into the 1920s mainstream, a unique form of dance was born. Growing and changing along with popular culture, Jazz (both the music and the dance) still carries its original ethos of individuality and improvisation.

Combining live performance with multimedia, performers from ‘Chant et Danse’, Christchurch’s only professional entertainment company, will take  you on a journey through the development of Jazz dance from its roots to the modern day and bring the history of this cornerstone of popular dance culture to life.

Company             Chant et Danse

Venue  Court Theatre Foyer, Bernard Street

Date/Time          Thu 11, Sat 13th and Sun 14th Oct at 9.00pm

Duration              60 min

Cost       $20 from Court Theatre or phone 0800 333 100 booking fees apply

1 hour

Lively (and nostalgic) crowd-pleaser

Review by Toby Behan 12th Oct 2012

As the 2012 Body Festival continues, the breadth and range of shows on offer simply keeps extending.  Chant et Danse present a lively (and nostalgic, for those of us who care to be) trip down memory lane with their performance of All That Jazz – a tribute to the roots and major influences of jazz music and dance.

The format of the show consists of one part narration, two parts film segment and three parts dance sequences. Chant et Danse themselves are a professional entertainment company based in Christchurch who perform dance and sing a variety of styles (chiefly Broadway-esque, jazz, cabaret styles) in mainly corporate and function-type events. All That Jazz presents a relatively rare chance to see them in a full theatre setting and the audience certainly appreciates the opportunity.

Introducing the evening (and anchoring the items as they are performed) are Josh Butler and Emma Cusdin. Between the two of them, they keep the audience informed of the key players and  major developmental milestones in the jazz form. Their delivery is smooth enough, although Butler is perhaps too young to believably pull off the role of a professor. Cusdin in particular adds some nice comedic touches to help the tone and segue into the next number.

The dances themselves are choreographed with authenticity and care, and performed with great gusto by all six of the dancers (spearheaded by an incredible energy from Jenna Morris-Williamson). Their smiles are constant, hips jutting at the right angle, and the performance delivery values remain high from beginning to end. With initial displays of dances such as the Charleston and the Big Apple, the performance progresses through Bob Fosse and onwards – through as far as Michael Jackson, whose music provides the backdrop for the finale.

The overall effect of the performance is somewhat reminiscent of the 1974 film That’s Entertainment, in that it blends information with performance numbers (and indeed many items are similar in terms of style). All That Jazz also has good potential for touring to schools as an educational programme, bearing this in mind.

It may not seem as cutting edge, complete or ambitious as other performances in the Festival – but as the popular 2012 saying goes – “it is what it is”. The programme notes and advertisements clearly set out the scope of the show and it delivers to that promise. The script needs some rewriting in order to provide the actors with material that feels more natural to them – the dialogue sounds as though it has been lifted from the history books, and is hard to audibly digest in that format. The film segments are pleasant to watch, although (at times complete with ‘TCM’ watermarks onscreen) at times one can feel as though we could simply view these segments in our own homes. We understand however, that the hard-working dancers need a chance to change into their next outfit.

It would perhaps be a nice development to weave this performance together more, uniting all three strands of performance (narration, film and performance) by having them overlap each other more. For example, at times the dancers are onstage whilst a narration concludes, but they remain still. There is room for the actors to speak and interact with moving dancers, as well as for a more imaginative blend of projected film and onstage action.

There is no doubt, however, that the performance is a crowd pleaser.  A man seated near me, judged by the intensity of his humming and singing, was pretty close to getting on stage himself and upstaging Gene Kelly as he splashed about on that famous street.  That’s entertainment. 


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