Jazzing-Up Modern Dance

The Santa Monica College Music Department presented "Interior Flight," an inventive musical and modern dance performance, featuring the music of the late, great jazz musician Charlie "Bird" Parker. The evening's performance took place Friday and Saturday at the Morgan Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica.

The concert was an intriguing collaboration, combining live instruments and excerpts from Charlie Parker's musical recordings, mixed with modern dance choreography.

It was a challenging show of different art forms, considering the improvisational fluidity of Parker's alto-saxophone blowing, and the rhythmic structure of contemporary dance. The most exciting moments of Saturday's performance involved the two art forms gelling together quite well.

The first number performed Saturday was "Sally Forth," a calm but thrillingly building piece, beginning with Brent Dodson's lonely trumpet awakening the four masked dancers, collectively known as CoLab.

It then segued into an intensely bizarre dance routine which featured Marge Windish singing vocals to Gershwin's original "Summertime," a song a few young audience members recognized as borrowed by popular reggae-punk band Sublime.

The evening continued in similar fashion with noteworthy choreography and interesting edits of Parker's most exciting works.

Silhouettes of slinky dancers slipping and sliding off each other provided visual stimulation with due credit to Bill Walday's lighting. Matthew Elgart performed, plucking his guitar on the cleverly titled "Celestial Intercourse," a name that adequately encapsulates the entire event.

Costumes, selected by Kindra Windish, radiated most notably in "Again," with flailing silk and chiffon material draping dancers Maria Breza and Jennifer Twilley, as they turned and twirled like carousels.

On "Elbow Grease," the most ambitious number of the evening, arranger Dodson again played trumpet, this time over the music of Edgard Varese and Parker.

The idea was to put together the music of Varese and Parker, a collaboration both musicians desired, but never completed, due to Parker's untimely death. The music was built methodically chaotic and was intensified by choreography that echoed the mood of paranoia to perfection.

The closing number, "Tetherball," featured the music of the always-delightful Ella Fitzgerald, and "Bird" with the song "Flyin' Home." Adorably costumed dancers playfully flirted with the audience as Fitzgerald's cutesy scatting evoked an old-school Betty Boop-like image.

When the music stopped and the lights went out, the performers were deservingly applauded and the audience filed out of the Morgan Wixson theatre, some humming jazz tunes with a new sort of bounce in their step.

"Interior Flight: A Tribute to 'Bird'" was the first of five shows in the SMC Spring Jazz Concert series ending May 13. The next show: Gilbert Castellanos Quintet, March 11.