A Little Jazz, A Lot Of Heart

I’ve got another great piece of choreography for you all to watch, this time from Nicole Trissell, who’s starting a new blues performance troupe out on the west coast called Sundown Strut!

What really pops out to me when I watch this piece is how integrated Nicole’s body movement is.  While there are a few times an isolation is used for emphasis, usually all the different parts of her body are moving together in ways that emphasize the music; it really makes her look like she’s living the song, not just running through some dance moves.  It’s really interesting how this effect comes from integrating influences from multiple different styles that she mentions in her interview!

What did you want to express with this choreography?

I really love the story and the character that is inherent in this song. I see her as a woman who’s lost her love and is revealing in falling to pieces over it. I wanted to embody that combination of anguish and ‘oh well’. I wanted to dance her story.

Why did you choose the song for the piece?

The first thing that really caught me about this song is the first line. “I’ve been down so long, that down don’t worry me”. That line has so much going on: anguish, whimsy, pinning, strength. The horns are also phenomenal. Long and stretchy, both sad and light. Then there’s the rest of Billie Holiday’s singing. She is one of my favorite vocalists, by far, and in this song in particular, I love the way her voice ebbs and flows, catches and releases, carries pain and strength. It’s one of those songs that yanks at my heart a bit every time I hear it played.

What other dances influenced or inspired this one?

The song is so solidly swanky blues to me, that I didn’t really think about bringing in related dance influence for it. I added a little bit of jazz vernacular that isn’t commonly used in blues dancing, like a fall off the log, but more because it felt good than because I wanted that influence for artistic reasons. That said, I’m still at least partly a ballerina at heart, so big, flowy arms and lines are often going to be part of my repertoire, even unconsciously.

How did you go about combining your concept, song choice, and influences to create the finished choreography?

This piece was born a little out of necessity. I was asked by a dance partner if I wanted to perform a solo piece at the 10th anniversary party for Friday Night Blues in San Francisco. He knew I had been working on a solo piece, but what he didn’t know was that I had gotten stuck on it. So four days before I was supposed to perform, I was desperately searching through my music for something else that might inspire me. Once the song, Stormy Monday, caught my ear, I listened to it on repeat for about half a day, watching an imaginary dancer dance out choreography possibilities in my head. Over the next two days, between my kitchen floor and a little bit of studio time, I sketched out the whole thing. I put the finishing touches on it the morning I was going to perform, then drilled it for several hours in a studio before I finally showed it. Turns out that necessity is the mother of invention, and choreography.


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