Portland Playhouse The sounds of Afrolitical Movement Portland Oregon

Dance Week Diary, Part Three: Jazz hands


I wake up sore from the previous day, so I’d like to think I was doing something right. [Editor’s note: In yesterday’s installment of Dance Week Diary, hip-hop instructor Katya Wilkins had said that if you aren’t a little sore after class, perhaps you could apply yourself more the next time.]

Kody Jauron leads Broadway jazz class at NW Dance Project/Photo by Heather Wisner

I wave goodbye to my husband with jazz hands and head to Broadway Jazz, only to find, once teacher Kody Jauron gets class underway in the sunny studio at NW Dance Project, that jazz hands are indeed on today’s menu. The warmup begins with Sweet Charity’s “Rich Man’s Frug,” which musical nerds will recognize as one of Bob Fosse’s most memorably groovy dance sequences. Following chest and hip isolations, we power through a set of double-time crunches as Tina Turner belts out “Proud Mary.”

Part Three: Broadway Jazz at NW Dance Project
What is it? Jazz dance foundational class
What makes it fun? Informal dance-party vibe
Who is it for? Broadway babies
Who is it not for? Self-serious types

Once we’re sufficiently loose, it’s back to Fosse: Jauron teaches us most of the “I Gotcha” sequence from the 1972 concert film Liza With a Z, a Fosse and Fred Ebb production with all the Fosse slink: jazzy box steps, coyly pointed fingers and swiveling hips, plus something Jauron dubs “the chicken run” (Y’know that thing Mick Jagger does with his hands on his hips and his elbows cocked behind him? That.)

It’s a substantial amount of choreography to absorb in one session, but it doesn’t feel intimidating—Jaron keeps the mood light, throwing himself into the steps with such genuine enthusiasm that he laughs along with everyone else when his glasses go flying after a saucy toss of his head. Like Wilkins, he emphasizes the mood that the choreography should evoke, by turns casual and intense.

When someone asks him how a run should look, he pauses to consider the question. “I don’t know,” he says finally. “Maybe like you’re running away from life?” And if that sounds dramatic, remember that we’re talking about a Liza Minnelli concert.

We finish with enough time to run the combination twice, and if we didn’t get all of it, well, Jauron points out, there’s always next week.

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