All That Jazz: Music Inspires Mixed Media Collaboration

Posted: December 20, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Michelle Nery

An inspiring event, sound, or image can be the spark that lights the creative fire. For renowned expressionistic painter Frederick James Brown, who has paintings displayed in both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of American Art, that inspiration often comes through the strains of the great jazz and blues musicians. This past weekend his inspiration was the light rumble of 12 George Mason dancers’ bare feet as they moved across the floor with a series of pliĆ©s, jumps, and leaps.

Brown observed the students’ grueling eight-hour-a-day sessions with George Mason guest artist and the country’s leading jazz choreographer Danny Buraczeski as he developed an original 13-minute dance to be performed in the Dance Department’s March Gala Concert. The painting Brown crafts as a result of his weekend in the Performing

Arts Building dance studio is a gift that will be used to fund several dance scholarships. “He is more than generous,” says Dance Professor Buffy Price of Brown’s donation.

“I had the idea back when we became a college,” says Price. “I thought it would be wonderful to incorporate all of the art forms working with a choreographer, painter, dancers, and musicians. Dance tends to incorporate the arts naturally.” When Price’s longtime friend Frederick Brown completed his portrait series of great jazz musicians, she thought it would be a good opportunity to somehow merge the bold, fluid brushstrokes of his portraits with dance. She approached James Carroll, visiting assistant music professor, for advice about a score, and he suggested a train theme found in several of Duke Ellington’s works. When jazz choreographer Danny Buraczeski signed on as a guest artist for the spring semester, her plans began to fall into place.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to watch two professional artists work through the creative process,” says Price. The cast of 12 consists of freshmen through graduate students. Buraczeski selected the students based on their ability to perform the movement because his pieces are “highly athletic and very musical,” Price says. “Buraczeski incorporated the underlying pulse of the train’s rhythm that is woven through Ellington’s music into the piece,” she says.

Buraczeski wrapped up his creative sessions for the piece on Sunday and will return to the university in February to work with the students again. It falls on Price’s shoulders as rehearsal director to make sure the students remember their movements over the break and keep them honed for his return. They will perform the piece in the George Mason Dance Company Gala Concert March 21 and 22 accompanied by the George Mason Jazz Ensemble playing under the direction of Carroll. Brown will also attend the Gala concert, where his painting inspired by the students and Buraczeski’s creative process will be displayed.

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