Junger mit schwarzem Hut tanzt

Jazz Dance

“To dance, put your hand on your heart and listen to the sound of your soul.” This sentence, as stated by Luigi, one of jazz dance’s pioneering representatives, already includes a lot there is to be said about this dance style. Typical for jazz dance: A rhythmic versatility conjuring much-evoked swing as well as the simultaneous isolation of individual body parts we describe as polycentric, and also playing with the beat and the off-beat. At the beginning of the 1960s, the film version of “West Side Story”, featuring Jerome Robbins’ choreographies, led to an upsurge in interest in jazz dance. Its origins can be found in Afro-American dance and music culture from the outset of the 20th century, including swing and the Charleston. Artists like Jack Cole and Katherine Dunham contributed significantly to the continued development of the dance while also influencing later works by choreographers such as Alvin Ailey, Bob Fosse and Walter Nicks. With Gus Giordano, Matt Mattox and Luigi, regular “jazz dance schools” emerged that continue being taught today in combination with other dance styles like hip hop or modern dance.

Instructors

Portrait Bridget Q. Fearn

Bridget Q. Fearn

Bridget Q. Fearn comes from California and is a highly regarded colleague with a longstanding expertise in dance, bringing with her creativity, vibrancy, enthusiasm, openness and a lot of humour. First and foremost, she carries a wealth of experience in international dance and performance as well as in teaching. Bridget became a part of the tanzhaus nrw instructors’ family in 1987 and, with her knowledge, has been critical in shaping the course section in ballet, modern, jazz, and tap dance as well as in hip hop. Together with US-born dancer Marvin A. Smith, she imported an exciting new street jazz spirit, situated somewhere between urban and jazz dance, to Germany and to tanzhaus nrw in the 1990s. Some of her current students have been attending her classes for 25 years now. Also, the later established contact  between tanzhaus nrw and dancer, lecturer and choreographer Corey Action-Harrison from Oakland was also arbitrated by Bridget. Additionally, Bridget is a certified yoga teacher and works with people who have fallen ill with Parkinson’s Disease or multiple sclerosis. Apart from her more than 30 years of teaching experience, she danced on stages around the globe and receives choreography commissions from, among others, Staatstheater Mainz or for the German premiere of David Bowie’s “Lazarus” musical, directed by Matthias Hartmann at Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf.

Portrait of Carlo Melis

Carlo Melis

Carlo Melis is among the most longstanding teachers at tanzhaus nrw. He has been teaching modern and jazz dance at the house since 1989, integrating influences from contemporary dance. “Contemporary dance’s freedom challenges standardised techniques in modern and jazz dance, turning the gaze inward.” Accordingly, Carlos’ classes focus less on learning a technique but rather on rediscovering a strategy we have been carrying within from our earliest childhood movements: Being curious, experiencing oneself and one’s body, feeling one’s own emotions. The participants work on movements, but also always on their origins. “We only start dancing when emotions drive movements.” Carlo entered vocational training to become a construction engineer for the sake of his parents, yet he has been fascinated by the arts early on in his youth, playing in physical theatre and in Living Theatre. Following a workshop with Bob Curtis, a pioneer in Afro contemporary dance, Carlo discovered dance: “I had never experienced such intensity. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to dance.” So, he started studying classical ballet, modern and jazz dance in his homeland of Sardinia at age 26. Later, he also graduated with a degree in theatre and dance education from several Italian universities. During a dance scholarship at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Carlo received tuition by great Wuppertal choreographer Pina Bausch, an experience that influenced his subsequent dance works. He contributed to TV productions, worked with numerous companies and taught at Arnhem University as well as elsewhere.

Portrait of Colin Sinclair

Colin Sinclair

Colin Sinclair is a creative multi-talent. The Londoner is not only a dancer, choreographer and lecturer, he is also the designer for his own fashion label and the artistic director behind Theater Company Sinclair Arts. He was active as a model for name brands, later founding a creative talent agency. He also won a number of awards as a screenwriter and graduated from New York Film Academy. His most formative dance experiences were gathered in London underground clubs. He was selected by the judging panel at a Covent Garden dance event, and they invited him to study at the Urdang Academy of Ballet and Performing Arts in London. Following this, Colin worked as a singer and dancer in numerous TV shows and musicals, among them Peter Maffay’s “Tabaluga und Lili” with a stint from 2000 until 2003. As a choreographer, Colin also worked for one of the largest US-American broadcasting and film production companies. Colin now teaches throughout Europe and has been a tanzhaus nrw instructor since 2005.

Emma Valtonen dances

Emma Valtonen

Emma Valtonen studied dance education in Finland and Portugal. After her graduation piece received many months of shows in Finland, she now works as a teacher and choreographer in Finland, Italy, China and elsewhere. She loves travelling and received further dance education in different dance styles internationally – always curious and in conjunction with the desire to explore new and unusual paths and movement languages. Consequently, Emma’s style is characterised by different dance subsets, drawing from urban dance, modern and jazz dance as well as from a number of physical work techniques. Her teaching approach is very people-oriented and open, her participants are enthusing about her “creative, focussed, affectionate and humorous teaching manner”.

Dance studio

Joseph P. Cooksey

Dance educator Joseph P. Cooksey deploys Zena Rommett Floor-Barre Technique®, modern dance, modern ballet and jazz in his classes. He taught at the Juilliard School, at the Dance Theater of Harlem, at the Alvin Aily American Dance Center and at the Philadelphia College for the Performing Arts. He is a certified Zena Rommett Floor-Barre Technique® teacher as well as a Master Teacher at their respective annual certifications.

Portrait of Othello Johns

Othello Johns

Othello Johns is a quasi-authority at tanzhaus nrw. He has been a part of the instructor’s family since the year 2000, teaching hip hop and breakdance to children and teenagers as well as modern jazz dance to adults, accompanying many generations of dancers since.
Othello discovered his love for dance already in his childhood. He remembers family gatherings at which everyone showed their “move” while the others imitated what was shown. His role models then were the Nicolas Brothers, who mainly rose to worldwide fame through their involvement in the 1943 movie “Stormy Weather” as well as Vaslav Nijinsky, a scandalous ballet icon at the beginning of the last century who left his indelible mark in history for his impressive bounce and grace, among other things. Later, Othello studied dance and choreography at the University of Louisiana, continuing his studies at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Erick Hawkins School in New York. Martha Graham as well as Eric Hawkins are seen as historic figures of US-American modern dance. “My time in New York was exciting and labour-intensive. I danced whenever I could, and I worked the rest of the time to finance myself.” When an Eric Hawkins Company dancer had to drop out due to illness, Othello was handed the opportunity of taking over one of the leading parts in “Can’t deliver”. He remained a permanent member, going on to become the company’s rehearsal director.
Othello’s social projects are almost too numerous to list. He gives workshops for children and youths who have barely any access to cultural offerings, while additionally founding Düsseldorf association KABAWIL, providing paths into culture and new perspectives for young dancers, with culture pedagogue Petra Kron in 2003. Apart from that, he is the director of the jazz and modern dance department at Tanz- und Sportzentrum Mittelrhein, and he is committed in initiatives such as “Kultur und Schule/ Culture and School” as well as at the Off-Theater in Neuss. He was a jury panel member of the “Move On” show contest in 2019.

Dance studio

Svenja Schulte

Svenja Schulte received her dance education at A.M. Rodriguez’ ballet school. Since then, she has been active for numerous productions, among them ones for German TV channel ZDF. As a coach and choreographer, she has been working for Movie Park Germany, Part Six, Toyota and many more. She has been employed as a dancer and singer at Cologne’s Scala Theater since 2010. Svenja received further education at several schools, among them the Iwanson School in Munich. She enjoys being able to pass on her love for dance while teaching and seeing her students’ development throughout her courses.