UB Choreographer Tells A Story Of The Joy Of Jazz

Masterful Dance Captures The Essence Of Jazz

A few months ago, while at the Orrin Evans concert at Villa Maria, I sat a couple of chairs away from a young woman attending. Curious, I chatted with her about what drew her to attend since the audience tends to skew a little older. She mentioned she found the event on JazzBuffalo.org. And explained that she is studying and preparing for her Master’s Degree Thesis at the University of Buffalo. Specifically, her thesis was on the marriage choreography of jazz music and dance.

Anna Caison Boyd is a budding choreographer and is about to earn her Master’s Degree (MFA) in Dance at the UB School of Theater and Dance. I ran into Anna several times after our first chance meeting. Enjoying chats about what she was discovering and answered questions about the music. Offering to help with finding the appropriate music to match the vision she had for her thesis choreographed dance.

Anna invited me to attend her thesis dance presentation on Saturday, April 15th at the UB Center for the Arts. Cindy and I were glad to support her. In summation, the dance was masterful! How she incorporated her experiences and observations attending jazz events she found on JazzBuffalo.org was truly eye-opening. Even more revealing is how jazz is viewed through the eyes of an artist outside of jazz who may not be a jazz aficionado so to speak. Sitting in the audience watching the dance, I connected to what it may have felt like to be an observer of a vibrant jazz scene and looking for clues to incorporate into the dance.

I was struck by how her choreography captured the core essence of jazz – joy. The marvelous dancers had beaming smiles throughout the dance entitled “Yet Another Jazz Dance.” Their dance movements captured elements that represented both the audience and the musicians. Conveying the audience’s excitement and wonder. Spotlighting call and response shouts to soloing. Instilling a sense of community as the dancers interacted in groups. And having the dancers watch an improvised piano performance with expressions of awe and wonder.

From her experiences, Anna chose two songs as part of four that were from the talented jazz scene in Buffalo. “For You (My Love)” by trumpeter and composer Jacob Jay and “Lafimen” (featuring Schadrack) by pianist and composer Marcus Lolo. Both songs added to the intent and beauty of the dance.

Anna captured in her magnificent dance the joy, fun, community, spontaneity, improvisation, and wonder of the music we call jazz. All the more meaningful for this was captured within an academic setting. At a time when jazz is taking a bit of criticism from venerable jazz legends and contemporary jazz artists such as Branford Marsalis. Criticism related to jazz losing its way and drowning in a quicksand of too much focus on theory, unrealistic quests for perfection, and academic seriousness.

Anna’s superlative choreographed dance reflected what I see in audiences attending JazzBuffalo events and other concerts. Excitement and happiness about a growing vibrant jazz scene. Caught up in wonder as we discover the brilliance of jazz artists from our very own region to the astonishing international jazz artists who have visited Buffalo.

We thank Anna Caison Boyd for telling a story of the joy of jazz. A story that reminds us all that jazz originated as music for dancing. And, as music that brought communities together in both bad and good times. Bringing joy, fun, spontaneity, togetherness, and ever-lasting smiles for us all.

Congratulations to Anna! Many thanks to the marvelous dance ensemble Kelly Quinn, Mya Tran, Audree Woods, Leah McNearney, Mario Liguori, Hayley Timberlake, and Olivia Lopez.

2 thoughts on “UB Choreographer Tells A Story Of The Joy Of Jazz

  1. I attended the concert, and your article captured the vision of Anna Caison’s piece celebrating the joy and marriage between jazz music and jazz dance. The work was well-crafted work with a strong understanding in navigating the dancers, being sensitive to music, and designing movement in space. Choreographer Boyd had a keen understanding of time-honored vernacular movement and knowing how to fuse the vernacular with gesture, acting, and dance theatricality. Congrats to Anna Caison Boyd on this showing.

  2. Tony and I were so happy to go see this on Saturday. Keep an eye out for Anna. She is a wonderful choreographer and her dancers performed her vision beautifully. I’d say she aced her thesis! Congratulations!

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