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Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop Gears Up for Its 42nd Summer

Photo by Wendy Turner, courtesy of Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop

This summer, as for the past 42 years, students will flock to Colorado to immerse themselves in jazz dance training and performance. High school and college students, professional artists and teaching artists alike will find opportunities for growth and connection.

The Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop honors tradition while also embracing innovation and change within the jazz dance genre and dance field in general. Before executive/artistic director Lara Branen began the Workshop, she and her co-founder Michael Geiger had studied at separate times with San Francisco jazz teachers Ann Garvin, Linda Heine and Ed Mock. Later Lynn Simonson became their primary inspiration. Each year Branen invites new guest artists to join long-term faculty who devotedly return year after year, including: Wade Madsen (modern dance), Nancy Cranbourne (jazz), Christy McNeil Chand (jazz) and Meghan Lawitz (contemporary). This summer will include lyrical, musical theater rep and a heels class, in addition to the program's regular offerings.


A two-week intensive is at the core of the summer workshop held at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Nearly 100 dancers participate in classes and about half participate in a culminating performance. A teachers' program, including a seminar class, is embedded within the intensive. Teachers can participate in and observe classes, choosing which levels to see and explore. "The teachers get a huge amount of material from all of these different perspectives," Branen says.

Seminar class topics range from incorporating injury knowledge into classes, to methods for giving feedback and corrections, to incorporating more improvisation into a jazz class. Teachers can receive a certificate of completion at the end of the two weeks, and the University of Colorado also offers one unit of graduate-level credit.

More than four decades into her creation, Branen remains committed to leading and growing the program. "The students who attend keep me going, and the amazing experiences they have," she says. "Our whole concept from the get-go was to offer personal growth and life-changing personal experiences to the participants, and we still carry that forward. It has a real family feeling, too." For 2020 details and dates: boulderjazzdanceworkshop.com

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