Blog: MCA DNA

Jazz Movement Study: Human Rhythm Project

By Chad Kouri

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Chad Kouri, Jazz Movement Study, 2015 Courtesy of the artist

About

The idea of dance as a musical instrument is very close to my heart. I took dance classes between the ages of 6 to about 14 and, although I didn’t take tap classes, I guarantee I would have loved them. Combining dance with sound is mashing together my two most pleasurable pasttimes. I’ve even been known to lose a good amount of time on YouTube watching hambone videos. Combined with improvisation, I personally can’t think of a more entertaining experience. These characteristics all combined in the form of the Human Rhythm Projects performance at the MCA.

To set the scene: Saturday, August 22 was a quiet day in the museum, that is, until you walked up to the 4th floor. There, a modest yet fixated crowd gathered to enjoy an improvised performance that included three tap dancers accompanied by a single bass player. The bassist’s demeanor, outfit, and posture set the mood for a casual and funky yet extremely skillful interaction between the performers. Taking turns, the dancers had various conversations with the bass player using nothing but their feet. The mood was light but focused. “That boy’s got it,” a low raspy voice behind me remarked.

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Chad Kouri, Jazz Movement Study, 2015 Courtesy of the artist

About

For this round of drawings I decided to pack light and only draw on colored index cards, an art supply that I use daily and carry with me pretty much everywhere. I use these blank cards to collect concepts, phrases, names, and other nonsense during my day-to-day happenings. Every few weeks these cards get organized and filed at the studio for future reference. Categories include People, Places, Things, Concepts, and Art Advice, as well as for specific projects that I’m currently developing.

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Chad Kouri, Jazz Movement Study, 2015 Courtesy of the artist

About

I realized after the fact that my drawings gave little credit to the bass player—seen on the left side of each card as four lines, which represent the bass strings. For me, this was a rather large oversight as the bass player was just as much a part of the performance as the tap dancers. Conversationally reacting to various rhythms, crescendos, decrescendos, and so on. It truly was a back and forth between two musicians, not a dancer and a bassist. I also learned the name of some basic tap steps along the way, which I decided to include on the back of each card—as well as some general descriptions. I also learned that just like jazz, tap has standards. These are routines that dancers learn throughout their training in order to perform with other tappers on the spot, without lengthy rehearsals. Lastly and most unexpectedly, I realized the different styles and finesse of each dancer that are expressed strictly through movement in their arms and upper torso—similar to the swaying and rocking motions of a horn player, mid solo—as I’ve always assumed that the top half of the body was reacting to the bottom only to keep balance. After this great performance, it will be hard to subdue the urge to brush up on my dance skills with a class or two.

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Chad Kouri, Jazz Movement Study, 2015 Courtesy of the artist