Stanley Perryman dances with Spectrum Dance Theater, the 12-member jazz company that performed a concert titled Jazz Explosion November 1314 at the newly built Kirkland Performance Center. Lamentably, he only appeared in two out of the five dances. Perryman is in his midforties, twice the age of most of the other company members, but he dances circles around his younger colleagues. The discrepancy is palpable: If Perryman is John Coltrane, the rest of the company are Kenny G's.
Spectrum Dance Theater Jazz Explosion
Kirkland Performance Center
Before joining Spectrum, Perryman danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Dance Theatre of Harlem, as well as on Broadway in Bob Fosse's Dancin' and Sweet Charity. Understandably, Perryman's skill and presence—his long, large limbs are hard to miss—only emphasized the novices' lack of expertise. In the opening of Claire Bataille's Tchokola, a colorful Caribbean-flavored number set to easy-listening fusion by Jean Luc Ponti, Perryman strutted across the stage proud, slow, and sultry. The mercury around him seemed to rise. With precise energy and direction, Perryman went from cool sashays to explosive leaps. In Nancy Cranbourne's musical-theater-style Blue Plate Special, he and five other dancers perched on the edge of chairs, splayed fingers in the air, swiveled an isolated shoulder, and peeked provocatively from beneath bright blue or red fedoras. The unison highlighted Perryman's ability to still all nonessential body parts. He drew attention to the tiniest movements with a combination of looseness and control, two of the defining characteristics of jazz artistry.
The rest of the company had the control part down to a fault, appearing too clean, too stiff, like soldiers. Rhonda Cinotto managed to stand out in the crowd, especially in a wacky allegro trio, the third section of Frank Chaves' Grusin Suite. Cinotto exhibited an innate musical sophistication, easy stage charisma, and an appetite for risk. She also moved with a freedom many of her peers lacked. More than once she whipped off a difficult passage of airborne turns and tricky footwork with all the ease of folding laundry. Most of the other dancers' spines were rigid, with centers of gravity held too high for jazz. But then again, much of the choreography was ballet masquerading as jazz. In the fourth section of Grusin Suite, Marie Chong and Chris Armas, both strong technicians and a beautiful pair, performed arabesques, pirouettes, and attenuated lifts. Without altering one iota of movement you could put Chong in a tutu and Armas in tights and, presto—it's a ballet!
Lar Lubovitch's Waiting for the Sunrise presented the company with the largest variety of styles to tackle, although I'm not convinced all were really jazz. And with nine unrelated sections the work felt disjointed. Still, Nick DeSantis nailed the physical comedy timing in Tennessee Waltz, a clever solo about a rejected fellow that had the dancer fall to his knees in syncopated timing, flop like a fish, and other such Donald O'Connoresque antics.
Jazz dance is all about self-expression, idiosyncratic interpretation, and reinvention. To be more interesting, Spectrum's young dancers needn't copy Perryman's artistry, just find their own way.