The Djasporas with the INSTIGATION ORCHESTRA Review – Fresh Air!

The Djasporas Improvise to Jazz

The Djasporas and the Instigation Orchestra, led by dancer Marie Casimir and guitarist Steve Marquette, collaborated to create an entirely improvised performance between twenty dancers and musicians. This piece was inspired by the constant exchange of artistic material between Chicago and New Orleans, and between dancers and musicians.

The stage and our seats are on the same level, and there is an immediate feeling of proximity to the artists that this writer initially found uncomfortable. Thirteen musicians encircle the performance area. We can see a saxophonist, a drummer, an accordionist, and a trombonist among others. There are seats to the left of the stage where seven dancers sit – they are dressed entirely in white. To the back, there is a white screen.

Photo: Dennis McDonough
Photo: Dennis McDonough


Our chattering ceases and the music slowly starts with an individual saxophonist, beginning the first of three segments in the piece.

As more musicians join him and a clear rhythm is established, one dancer in a white tunic comes onto the stage. Once a dancer feels inspired by what they see and hear, they stand up and join the others. Within ten minutes, all seven of the dancers are on stage. Some of them dance in pairs, others dance individually based on their interpretation of the music and of each other. As the music crescendos, the dancing intensifies until stopping. This is a pattern that will reoccur in the following two segments of the piece. 

The dancers have now gathered to the center of the stage and are forming a circle for the second segment. The lights go off and the music temporarily stops. When it resumes, the projector is simultaneously lighting the white screen to the back of the stage and the dancers in front of it. One by one, the dancers go behind the white screen and shadow dancing begins. Even though we can no longer recognize them by their face, it is fascinating to see how they have become recognizable by their unique dancing styles. The creativity of this segment brings this writer to a kind of entrancement and she begins to feel more at ease with the performance despite personally finding the improvised jazz somewhat shrill.

A Show for Dance Enthusiasts

As the dancers return to the center stage for the final segment, they are now wearing white pants and colorful shirts. This portion of the piece is quite similar to the first one, but now they seem to be dancing more harmoniously than before. The personal style and method of each dancer stands out even more than before, and each artist can showcase their own personality, something that is especially intriguing to those of us who are accustomed to organized and structured dance performance with no room for improvisation. For this reason, this piece is most likely best suited for dance enthusiasts who enjoy watching modern and innovative types of dance. 

Visit the Djaspora webpage for more information about their work. 

Photo: Dennis McDonough

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