Here we’ve got a new piece from Randy and Mimi, who teach at Swing ConneXtion in Montréal! What really struck me at first was how it showcases a style that is both fast and jazzy, while still definitely blues. Their interview is wonderfully playful to read! Looking back on all these, it’s interesting to see how many dances have been choreographed with the goal of influencing or educating a dance community.
What did you want to express with this choreography?
Randy: This routine was choreographed by my dance partner Myriam Baril…
Mimi: c’est moi!
Randy: … and me with the intent of introducing solo blues movement to our dance students. Solo dancing, let alone solo blues dancing is still fairly scary…err… new… idea here in Montréal.
Randy: We wanted to work on a project that we ourselves could be excited about choreographing and that our students can be jazzed up about in learning. For what we wanted to “express”… hmm maybe Myriam should start.
Mimi: Pour moi, I wanted to [explore] choreographing call and response for troupes as well as the ‘softer’ parts of solo movements. Expression is interesting to think about because I just really focus on the dancing part of the choreography.
Randy: That’s pretty much it for me too. Dancing and lots of it.
Why did you choose the song for the piece?
Randy: Oooo boy.
Let me start by telling you that the song I chose for this choreography, “Black and Tan Fantasy”, is such an important song in jazz history and so rich in meaning that I honestly had a lot of reservations in choosing it for a piece.
Did I really want to do a performance piece on a song about racial integration? Would what I would choreograph be seen as “vintage” or “authentic” enough. B T dubs, this is a religious topic here in Montréal. Would anyone actually want to do a group performance to this song? These were just a few questions that I had in my mind when I first started in choosing a song.
Randy: As most people know, the original composition was famously recorded by Duke Ellington. I chose however to do the choreography from the arrangement by Ronnie Magri & His New Orleans Rhythm. It was a very conscious decision mainly due to sound quality (I wanted to perform this piece at the Rialto) but also because I felt that this particular arrangement really stayed true to the roots of the original – heavy drums, dark sax, and the low down growling brass sounds.
From a logistical perspective, I needed a song that people would hear once and “get” what kind of flavour I was going for in the routine. Because the routine was going to be danced by our students, it couldn’t be overly complex in theme but at the same time it needed to have that little bit of kick to put fire in their dance bellies.
Randy: You’re the worst.
What other dances influenced or inspired this one?
Randy: Loaded question, but take it away Mimi!
Mimi: I have a background in hip hop, house, and lindy hop so these styles always influence the choreographies that I do. Randy has a somewhat similar background so we really compliment each other when we work together.
I can’t say exactly which moves are influenced from which dances exactly but bits and pieces are there. The most obvious ones are the jazz moves like boogie forwards and shorty george.
Randy: and hip thrusts.
Mimi: vintage Randy hip thrust yes.
How did you go about combining your concept, song choice, and influences to create the finished choreography?
Randy: Hard question. Next? Haha jokesies.
Hmm… I envision a finish routine before I start choreographing. It’s a little bit hard to say exactly what I see and feel when I listen to a song that I want to choreograph to, but a stage is always on my mind. How would it look with lighting and an interested audience.
Formations are also on my mind these days a lot. I want to experiment with interesting shapes and transitions without being a jerk about it. Formations and a story. I find that I like to choreograph to a story – a beginning and an end.
Mimi: I always want to see our dance work on stage portraying who we are and where we come from so that is how I combine things. [Like I said before], Randy and I have different dance backgrounds than most people in our scene (Montréal) so we really want to showcase our personalities while [paying homage] to choreographies and movements that came before us. This is very important for me I think.
Randy: I agree. It’s a constant push and pull of what we want to do versus what the scene wants to see.
Randy: Choreographing a troupe is particularly challenging because you have to work with them and make them feel what you feel. Sometimes it’s hard to express those feelings verbally. Actually not sometimes. It IS super hard. But that’s the fun part about it. Wait what was the question again? Oh yah, it’s a long process combining everything together. A lot of different factors like what we want to represent, how we will work with our students, and while finishing one project, thinking and planning for the next one.
Mimi: So much fun 🙂