“Rhythm & Flow” is an appropriate name for Eclectic Edge Ensemble’s 15th-anniversary concert. The troupe, led by Karis Sloss, showcased the many moods of contemporary jazz dance on Thursday night at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis.
Aside from celebrating a milestone, the program reminds us that jazz dance is more than good fun. Its foundations draw upon American racial and social justice movements, a history of resistance communicated through artistic innovation. All of the featured choreographers keep the legacy alive while continually reshaping it.
Sloss opens the evening with a retrospective collage of her works, ranging from the dynamic to the playful and serene. A duet for Timothy Herian and Heather Annis from “Foot Flight by Night” offers an elegant interlude while an excerpt from “Snowbound! A Journey From Autumn to Spring” shows a depth of musicality, variation and perspective.
Karla Grotting’s “Hold & Release” illustrates how the body can channel and reinterpret music, in this case a composition by the Saxopaths quartet. A generous mover in her own right, Grotting has a particular knack for incorporating dozens of details. But the work never feels busy. Instead it’s as smooth as a sax solo on a sultry summer night.
Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner’s two pieces, “All Together Now” and “Medley Azul,” underscore her commitment to elevating the radical love within jazz by focusing on the power of communal response to oppression. The former combines the collective spirit of the 1960s civil rights movement with the recent advocacy of Black Lives Matter, while the latter highlights the strength of female energy, drawing upon Gutierrez-Garner’s Mexican heritage.
Danny Buraczeski led Minnesota’s Jazzdance company for many years and is, without hyperbole, a recognized national treasure. His “Points on a Curve” — performed by Allison Doughty Marquesen, Sarah Beck-Esmay, Mallory Dykema, Annis and Herian — is a masterful classic that takes the title’s premise and kaleidoscopes it exponentially. There are few choreographers who can find so many ways to move the body through space and pinpoint rhythmic counterpoint, even in silence.
“Musical Portraits of Ella Fitzgerald” closes out the evening. Created by Minnesota jazz dance legend Zoe Sealy, the work is sly and sophisticated, demonstrating that harnessing rhythm and flow is no easy task — but it is a joyful one. Sealy, and all who learned from her on the stage, remind us the dance is eternal.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities critic.