‘Fusion’ dance group performs at British Art Center

It might not compare to a transatlantic flight — but it’s still a long way from Exotic Erotic 2000 to the British Art Center. Yet British fusion dancers Perry Louis and Christianne Hencke managed to blend the tawdriest and the classiest elements of Yale yesterday afternoon in the gallery’s auditorium.

The two are members of Jazzcotech, one of the few organized groups in the international dance movement known as “fusion”, which incorporates tap, swing, hip-hop and break-dancing. Their presentation included a short history of fusion, a demonstration, and a performance by 15 students from Yale dance groups and New Haven’s Cooperative Arts High School. Louis and Hencke led workshops about fusion at Yale and at the high school over the last two days.

“We’re here today to show you what we do to your jazz,” Louis began his presentation. Among the styles Jazzcotech samples are Afro-Cuban, be-bop, Latin, Brazilian funk, Euro-funk, jazz and fusion.

Very little of this “fast jazz” is ever danced to in the United States.

Two years ago, Louis was among a group of dancers gathered by jazz aficionado and Timothy Dwight Master Robert Thompson for a performance at TD’s notoriously naked party, Exotic Erotic.

The move from Exotic Erotic to the British Art Center is far from incidental, as Louis made clear in his talk. The fusion dance movement arose from the club boom in Britain in the 1970s. It soon emerged as a full-blown subculture, complete with its own fashion style and a very rough, tough atmosphere, he said. But recently, that has started to change.

“Now we don’t drop kick people, pull their legs away from them, and slap them,” Louis said. “It’s gotten a lot friendlier.”

The atmosphere shaped the dance, as performers perfected “drop moves” to disguise ungainly falls caused by tricky competitors.

Over the last four or five years, the media has gotten interested, too. The group has joined the jazz festival circuit, Louis said. British Art Center Associate Director David Mills, who helped organize the show, said he first saw them at a conference.

But Louis assured the audience that the style is still evolving. The presentation included a film clip taken a few weeks ago at one of London’s clubs.

“It’s dark, it’s dingy, but we’re all here for the music,” Louis said.

Louis and other members of the fusion dance movement now travel internationally proselytizing their style and its improvisational spirit.

Louis and Hencke said they were impressed by the spirited attitude and skills they encountered in the New Haven student dancers.

“They could show us a few things,” Hencke said.

Mills represented the British Art Center at the workshop.

“Some things looked incredibly difficult and high energy — they got them right away,” Mills said.

The admiration seems to be mutual. Yale dance group A Different Drum, seven of whose members participated yesterday, plans to use the routine for their late November performance, co-president Arianna Romairone ’03 said.

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