Since its 2020 premiere at the Dance on Camera festival, the feature-length documentary Uprooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance has been taking the dance world by storm. The film, which is directed by Khadifa Wong and produced by Lisa Donmall-Reeve based on an original concept by Zak Nemorin, reveals the historical, social, cultural, and political context of jazz dance that has been missing from mainstream education of this American art form. What ensues is a fascinating deep dive into its complex history and evolution—from pattin’ juba on Southern plantations all the way through to the more well-known techniques of figures such as Bob Fosse and Gus Giordano.
Uprooted—which is available to stream on HBO Max in the U.S. and iTunes, Amazon, Sky, Google, and more in the U.K.—has created a hunger for the contextual education of jazz dance to be married with practical learning. The creative team behind the film is now meeting that demand by hosting in-person intensives, which physically connect the dancers with the message of the film. “It’s about educated movement, not just replicating or appropriating,” says Nemorin, who is currently Head of Jazz Dance at Millennium Performing Arts in London. “It’s about doing things with honor and sensitivity to where things came from.”
Each intensive consists of a screening of the film, a Q&A with some of the creatives and the cast of experts, and jazz classes primarily taught by artists featured in the film. “It’s great that the students get to experience the contributors of the film in person and in context,” says Wong. “The teachers get to further expand on points they’ve made in the film.”
The team has already run successful one-day events at University of Southern California and University of Arizona. “The students have been really engaged. They’ve asked great questions and are really delving into the subject,” says Wong. “What I’ve been enjoying is the fact that the students of today are not disconnected from their history the way we were.”
The creatives are now looking forward to hosting their first three-day intensive in the U.K. “I’m excited to finally do something on my home soil,” says Wong, who grew up in London. “It will be nice to bring this experience to my home turf and see how the students react.” The event will run from July 10 to 12 at London’s Marylebone Theatre and will include a range of classes such as African dance with Robin Gee, Authentic Jazz Dance with Jreena Green, and Hip Hop with Bly Richards. There will also be a Q&A with the creative team. It is open to dancers ages 16 and up.
The next intensive stateside will take place at New York’s Broadway Dance Center June 17 and 18, and will feature classes from some of the film’s experts, such as Sekou McMiller, who will be teaching Afro-Latin Fusion, and Sue Samuels, who will be teaching Jo Jo Smith repertoire. This intensive is open to dancers ages 15 and up.
The creators of Uprooted are looking forward to running more of these intensives wherever they are invited. “We never really set out to be the voice of jazz,” says Nemorin. “We’re providing a space where voices can be heard and including as many different people as possible from many different parts of the form all under one roof.”
For more information and to register for the London intensive, please email [email protected].
To register for the New York City intensive, click here.