A night of music and magic at Keller Theatre

In their first ever collaboration, university dance and jazz groups brought the charm of 1940s New Orleans to little Lexington


Pieces performed included Summertime by George Gershwin, Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione and It Don’t Mean A Thing by Duke Ellington. Photo by Elena Lee, ’25.

Jin Ni

In the first ever collaboration between W&L Repertory Dance company and the University Jazz Ensemble, students brought the magic and music of a 1940s New Orleans jazz club to Lexington. 

The set was complete with Mistresses of the Show providing entertaining narratives, dancers in ethereal silks and flowy costumes, and mood lighting.

The initial vision for the show was based on Preservation Hall, a famed New Orleans jazz club. 

Director of the Jazz Ensemble, Terry Vosbein, worked with Jenefer Davies, professor of dance and artistic director for the dance company, to brainstorm the concepts, music and theatrics. Meanwhile, lighting and video designer, Shawn Paul Evans, and costume designer, Kenann Quander transformed Keller Theatre into an “intimate nightclub”.

“We had planned for this concert to happen two years ago, but COVID shut down W&L a mere two weeks before the show,” said Davies.

The concert was a showcase of eight dances including aerial silks, bungee, tap, and contemporary ballet to the tune of 10 musical numbers, ranging from “It Don’t Mean A Thing” to “Haitian Fight Song.” It was performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at Keller Theatre. Two dance works are the passion projects of dance students, Irina Koleva, ’22, and Zach Baldridge, ’22, seeking to push the boundaries of aerial bungee. 

Pieces performed by the University Jazz Ensemble included “Summertime” by George Gershwin, “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione and “It Don’t Mean A Thing” by Duke Ellington.

Dancers and musicians have been rehearsing from the start of the semester, with a few pieces even beginning last fall. 

But it has also given dance and jazz students an unique opportunity to perform with live music and rehearse with nationally renowned guest artists and choreographers, including Eric Rivera, Charlotte Boye-Christensen and Caroline Calouche. 

“It’s been a lot of hours, with weekends spent working with a guest choreographer and practicing after hours on the weekdays,” said Kate Fisher, ’23. “But it’s been such an amazing opportunity, to think there is this amazing choreographer who has created a dance just for me? I wouldn’t be able to get this anywhere else.”

COVID-19 also posed challenges as performers tried to balance their art with health and safety.

“A few of us actually learned a dance over Zoom earlier in the term, which proved to be challenging, especially in trying to have the choreographer be able to see us well, and for us to understand the directions and facings of the steps we were learning,” said Ashley Shugart, ’22, president of the W&L Repertory Dance company. 

Shugart said she hopes the audience enjoyed the show. 

“I hope the audience takes away some joy from this performance,” she said. It’s a light-hearted show and I think it really showcases the talents of everyone involved.”

The W&L Repertory Dance Company and University Jazz Ensemble Concert was held in the Lenfest Center for the Arts at Washington and Lee University March 10, 11, and 12 at 7:30 p.m.