From Natasha Powell, Creative Lead:
Our first full-length production, FLOOR'D, draws inspiration from the book Jookin: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture, written by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon. Her book details three primary institutions that allowed for the development of dancing among African-Americans: 1) Dancing Under the Lash, 2) Shoddy Confines: The Jook Continuum, and 3) Upper Shadies and Urban Politics. Section two of the book - Shoddy Confines: The Jook Continuum - is the institution that could be found exclusively in black communities and operated without assistance from public officials. The jook was the first institution after Emancipation that was rooted in West-African traditions, and this new space gave rise to and rejuvenated many cultural practices. The new work we are creating is inspired by this section of the book.
FLOOR'D is a journey that will examine the dynamics, relationships and interactions of dancing bodies within the arena of jook houses; how these bodies compose music (jazz and the blues); and what other factors influenced the movement in these spaces. In jook joints, black dance culture crystallized into exportable forms, providing black lower and working classes with their primary public arena for dance. Dances in the jook included the Charleston, the shimmy, the snake hips, the funky butt, the twist, the slow drag, the black bottom, the fish tail, and the grind. FLOOR’D seeks to replicate the jook joint energy by incorporating seven exciting dance artists accompanied by seven musicians playing on brass, upright bass, drums, and piano.
Ultimately, we want to create work that inspires change in the way jazz dance is now perceived. Today, many people view jazz dance as a form that blends Eurocentric styles - this owes little to jazz and less to jazz rhythms. Jazz dancing is done to jazz rhythms and stresses two very important characteristics that can be traced to black dance traditions: propulsive rhythms and improvisation; elements that are also found in the street dance forms of today. Through FLOOR'D, we want to get the broader dance community and public familiar with the original jazz: Dancing that is propulsive, improvised, contemporary, and culturally relevant.
Join us for FLOOR’D at the Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto, April 25-28, 2018 at 8:00 PM!