Miles Ahead consists of two jazz theatre programmes - Footprints In Jazz, a suite of concert jazz pieces, and Touches Of Miles, paying tribute to the life and music of jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis. After almost two decades producing jazz theatre pieces, BOP has finally secured Arts Council funding, and The Guide spoke to BOP director and choreographer Dollie Henry to find out more.
"With Footprints what we have tried to do is talk about what the jazz idea is about, through a meaningful point of view. Often we see jazz, but what Footprints is trying to express is that there's a myriad of styles that make up the jazz umbrella. I'm trying to give a narrative sense to the genre of jazz. They are vignettes, each little piece is a little story and they take you into the sound of the other styles of jazz. There are current dance pieces and a lot of contemporary narrative pieces. There are many footprints that make up the Footprints of jazz."
Dollie added that BOP's aim with the two pieces was to help preserve and introduce people to jazz as an artform, rather than as a commercial product, with all the clichés that attach to it.
"What I worry about is that the artform is misplaced, or not recognised," said Dollie. "What is the basis of jazz? How can we teach it in a way that inspires an emotion - rather than just jazz hands and big old smiles! That has it's place, but if we think about the artistic side that takes on a whole different slant.We are adamant that we do not recreate, we create."
Dollie explained that Touches Of Miles, BOP's inaugural piece, focused on a jazz artist who was very close to her heart. "Miles Davis' music is something that I have fallen in love with. He was a very provocative man and his work and life are all wrapped into one. We use music and dance as a conversation to show his life. We have done adaptations of his arrangements and we have three live musicians onstage.
"We have had this piece for 17 years and we adapt it for the company at the time. Everytime I come to it and create something new and something different. We are forever forging ourselves forward, as Miles did; he changed and kept changing, as jazz does.
"We want it to be accessible, and for people to see it as an art form as well as an entertainment. It's fun and it's energised and I have an amazing company of dancers and musicians."
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