Which came first--the chicken or the egg?
The age-old debate about creation can be directed at artistic collaborations as well. It is impossible to tell whether the music or the movement supplied the creative impetus for a dance work, if the fusion between music and movement is complete.
But when Patricia Rincon and Melissa Nunn teamed up with jazz composer Rob Mullins to design the program for Jazz Unlimited's first appearance at the Lyceum Theatre this weekend, the evolutionary process was perfectly transparent.
"The music was the primary source of our inspiration," said Rincon, artistic director of Jazz Unlimited. "I loved Rob's music even before I knew he was Melissa's brother. When we realized we both wanted to work with Rob, we decided to pool our resources and do a concert together."
Rincon and Nunn selected the music from Mullins' most popular albums--"Soulscape" and "Nite Street."
"We chose pieces we wanted to work with from two of his albums--from two that hit the charts," Rincon noted over a hurried break from rehearsals. "There were seven pieces of music, and we've made them into six dances."
The results of this three-way collaboration will premiere at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, when the Jazz Unlimited Dance Company and the Rob Mullins Trio perform their first joint concert at the Lyceum.
Taking cues directly from the music was nothing new to Rincon. She has choreographed a slew of dances from full-blown compositions (including "Company Break," an ensemble work set to Mullins' music last year). But, for Nunn, it was a total turnaround.
"When I studied to be a modern dancer, we were trained not to rely on the music," she said. "It was the late '60s and early '70s, when modern dance was in a major rebellion against using music as a primary source.
"So, for me, it was quite a risk. But I said (to Mullins), 'Tell me what you think the dances should look like." I've tried to re-create his ideas.
"For example, 'Torpedoes on the Mousetrap' was Rob's response to something that happened on the Denver freeway which brought the city to a standstill. I just tried to flesh out his musical response."
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Nunn's work that her kinetic equivalent to "Torpedoes on the Mousetrap" abounds with wacky images and sly snippets of humor. Other Nunn trademarks, such as the use of big sets and plenty of props, will be in evidence as well.
For her own part of the program, Rincon selected Mullins' "Samba," a composition she describes as "very Latin, very strong and very percussive."
For "Soulscape," Rincon enlisted the aid of another artist, architect Steven Lombardi. Lombardi's oversized steel sculpture (a cage-like structure that surrounds the dancers) suggests the clashing rhythms of the score in strong intersecting lines that slice boldly across the stage.
The program will feature other works from "Soulscape," all choreographed by Rincon, and selections from "Nite Street," choreographed by Nunn.
The band will perform on its own between dances.