Dance Concert Honors Retiring Jazz Dance Professor
Seven works by Danny Buraczeski from three decades to be featured
The SMU Meadows 2018 Spring Dance Concert will honor award-winning jazz dance faculty artist Danny Buraczeski, who retires in May after 13 years of teaching at SMU, with a retrospective of seven of his works. Featured will be dances created over the past 30 years for professional companies and for SMU students, ranging from 1989’s Merry Go Round to In the City, which premiered in 2013 at SMU’s “Meadows at the Winspear” concert. Performers will include current students; alumni Albert Drake and Adrián Aguirre; and the Zenon Dance Company from Minneapolis, long-time collaborators of Buraczeski’s who performed his critically acclaimed Ezekiel’s Wheel in 2016 in Cuba. The concert will be presented in two alternating programs, April 4-8, in the Bob Hope Theatre at SMU. On Tuesday, April 3, the Division of Dance also will host a panel discussion about Buraczeski’s choreography from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Hope Theatre. The panel will include dance artists who worked with Buraczeski in his professional companies and participated in creating some of his seminal works.
Concert program A, to be performed April 4, 5 & 7, will include five works. It opens with In the City (2013), based on “Three Dance Episodes” from the popular Leonard Bernstein musical On the Town. Inspired by the urban rhythms and textures of Bernstein’s remarkable music, the work features 15 dancers celebrating youth, optimism and the vibrant new energy that the Dallas Arts District has brought to the city. It’s followed by Scene Unseen (1998), set to music by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, featuring a duet with alumni Albert Drake, a founding member of Bruce Wood Dance Project, and Adrián Aguirre, a current member of the company. Song Awakened (2001) follows, a sparingly elegant, richly detailed work set to the songs of the late Cesária Évora, a noted singer of Creole-Portuguese soul music. The work, which debuted to critical acclaim at New York’s Joyce Theater, will be performed by eight Zenon Dance Company members. The next piece, Points on a Curve (1998), is danced to music by Ornette Coleman; The New York Times said the low-key choreography evoked the music “in often witty and thought-provoking ways.” Program A concludes with Swing Concerto (1994), an athletic and ebullient exploration of the relationship between two great vernacular musical traditions, European Klezmer music and the American swing of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. The piece synthesizes the grounded qualities of folk dance with the exuberance of swing era movement. The Times wrote, “Swing Concerto is Mr. Buraczeski’s choreography at its most inventive, perceptive best.”
Program B, to be performed April 6 & 8, will include four works. The program opens with the aforementioned In the City, followed by Merry Go Round (1989), set to music by Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band and featuring Zenon company dancers Scott Mettille and Sarah Steichen Stiles. Next is Points on a Curve (noted above). The final work in Program B will vary. On April 6, it will be Ezekiel’s Wheel (1999), an emotional piece for eight dancers that was inspired by the life and work of author and Civil Rights activist James Baldwin. The work, exploring the themes of recognition, responsibility and redemption, will be performed by Zenon Dance Company. Commissioned when Buraczeski was artistic director of the acclaimed Minneapolis-based JAZZDANCE, Ezekiel’s Wheel was praised by The Times as “a balm for the soul in troubled times.” On April 8, the concert program will conclude with the aforementioned Swing Concerto.
“Danny Buraczeski has for years been one of the country’s leading jazz dance choreographers,” said Samuel Holland, Algur H. Meadows Dean of the Meadows School. “His artistry, passion and dedication to jazz music and dance have inspired both students and professional dancers for four decades. We will miss him greatly, but our dance department will continue to perform his exciting and inventive works and carry on his legacy for future generations of SMU dancers.”
“Danny is one of the most prolific and significant voices in the world of jazz dance,” said SMU Dance Chair Patty Delaney. “This retrospective allows us to experience his seminal works live and, through discussion with those who worked with him during their creation, we have the opportunity to fully appreciate the artistic contributions Danny has made to the field of dance. The SMU Dance Division is exceptionally fortunate to have had Danny on our faculty for 13 years.”
Buraczeski joined the SMU faculty in 2005 and rose to the rank of full professor. At SMU he taught classic jazz dance technique, composition and choreography and launched a national, biannual Teaching Jazz Dance Symposium, drawing educators, choreographers and dancers from around the country to SMU. He also served as artistic director for the Dance Division’s Brown Bag Concerts. He was named Dance Educator of the Year by the Dance Council of North Texas in 2010 and Meadows Foundation Distinguished Teaching Professor in 2017. He retires as Professor Emeritus of Dance.
About Danny Buraczeski
As a classic jazz stylist for over three decades, Buraczeski has traced a clear and deep investigation of jazz – its sources and ongoing evolution – with keen attention paid to the rich lineage of individual performers and movement makers. Rhythm drives Buraczeski’s choreographic explorations. Respect and enthusiasm for his musical collaborators is evident in the thorough research, extensive knowledge and advocacy for jazz makers and the vernacular sights, sounds and environments that are his wellspring. After a career on Broadway appearing in such musicals as Mame with Angela Lansbury and The Act with Liza Minnelli, Buraczeski formed the original New York City-based JAZZDANCE in 1979. Based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul from 1992 to 2005, the company performed at leading concert halls and festivals in more than 35 states and in Europe and the Caribbean. Many of Buraczeski’s works for JAZZDANCE were commissioned by presenters around the country, including the Walker Art Center, Bates Dance Festival and the Library of Congress, whose 1997 support of Among These Cares was that institution’s first dance commission in 50 years. The Joyce Theater (where the company performed regularly beginning in 1987), the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Bucknell University, Penn State, Palm Beach Community College and the University of Minnesota have also supported the creation of new work. Buraczeski has created works for the Boston Ballet, Ballet Memphis, the Zenon Dance Company and many repertory companies and universities around the nation. He has taught at each of the nation’s major dance festivals. Among other awards, he has received multiple fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, for whom he is now a regular panelist/consultant.
Spring Dance Concert performance times are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for seniors and $8 for students, SMU faculty and staff. The Bob Hope Theatre is located inside the Owen Arts Center, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 214-768-2787 or here.