The empty, Depression-era McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn was, until 2009, a hip venue packed with vibrant twenty-somethings for concerts and summer “pool parties” alike. It’s also appropriately the location for the opening dance scene in NY Export: Opus Jazz, a film celebrating youthful exuberance, during which, fresh-faced New York City Ballet members in sneakers and street clothes perform the original 1958 Jerome Robbins choreography from the ballet of the same name. Exuding vigor and cool, the film, conceived by New York City Ballet soloists Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi, marks the first return of Robbins’ choreography to the streets of New York since West Side Story. NY Export: Opus Jazz made its San Francisco premiere on Fri./25 at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center as part of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, directed by Greta Schoenberg.
During the first movement, a linked chain of dancers, captured from above, curves into a semi-circle on top of peeling painted swim lanes. The dancers sway, snap their fingers and throw high kicks under the arch of crumbling brick that frames the pool. The next movement of Robbins’ dance emerges when four men and the sizzling Georgina Pazcoguin tear into Richard Prince’s jazz score in an abandoned parking garage. Leaping to their stomachs and sliding on the cement, the men appear smaller than the statuesque female standing in the foreground of certain camera shots, adding to Pazcouguin’s powerful presence. Each dance scene alternates with footage of city life (traveling on a train, gathering at a diner), thus incorporating the soundscape of Manhattan’s taxis and horns.
Trailer for NY Export: Opus Jazz:
As the whole ensemble gathers at a school gym, sneakers squeak on the shellacked wood floor and dancers take turns curling their hands into fists and thrusting the pelvis. Arial shots capture the colorful formations as dancers weave between each other on the basketball court. Men playfully shimmy and quick flashes of partnering send dancers into the air. The performers get to be themselves in this film: both dancers and city dwellers, with Robbins’ still-relevant choreography as the vehicle for expressing youthful vibrancy.
Later, Craig Hall and Rachel Rutherford perform the seductive duet during sunset on Manhattan’s Highline, their tension-filled embrace revealing a sense of yearning. With all of the film’s dance set in abandoned surroundings, including the final movement performed onstage at an empty theater, NY Export: Opus Jazz suggests that the dancers truly perform for the joy of themselves and each other, rather than any outside audience. The resulting most ravishing spirit is addictive – that of being young and alive in the Big Apple.
NY Export: Opus Jazz is available for purchase at www.opusjazz.com.