Jazz Unlimited plays all its concerts to sold-out audiences, but its appeal rarely reaches beyond the college crowd.
As company director Pat Rincon describes it: “We still suffer from an image problem. People don’t take us seriously. They think jazz dance is not a true art form like ballet or modern dance.”
Blame the ear-splitting rock ‘n’ roll music that blares its accompaniment to many of the jazz dances, or the Las Vegas-style dance designs that crop up in many of the pieces. Whatever the reason, Jazz Unlimited has never been able to shake its unsophisticated image in San Diego.
This season, however, an unusual link to the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art may make a difference.
“We’ll be opening our fall season in November with a collaboration with the museum,” said Jazz Unlimited dancer Alicia Rincon, who is Pat’s twin sister. “They’ll be featuring an exhibit of 20 stencil lithograph prints from the book ‘Jazz’ by Henry Matisse, created in the 1940s.
“And we’ll be presenting new jazz works by Los Angeles-based dancer/choreographer Ben Lockey (an ex-dancer in the Broadway production of ‘A Chorus Line’), as well as other premieres by Pat and myself.
“We’re very excited about having the museum coordinate an exhibition with our concert--and we’re hoping to attract a wider audience,” she said.
Although Jazz Unlimited has performed in the museum’s auditorium in the past, Pat Rincon believes the tie-in with this exhibition is an added boost for the troupe.
“Just being invited to come and be part of this show is a statement in itself,” she said.
The museum’s performance curator, Stuart McLean, explained:
“The reason we invited Jazz Unlimited to perform on that date was because of the exhibit. We had already scheduled the Matisse ‘Jazz’ show, and we wanted to have other jazz events in conjunction with the show.
“We have a series of jazz films, and we’ll have Chuck Mangione on November 11 and 12. Jazz Unlimited is the best exponent of jazz dance in town, and their performances are always well-attended.”
The museum’s Matisse show opened earlier in October, and will run through Nov. 27. Jazz Unlimited will get into the act Nov. 18-19 with concerts at 8 p.m. at Sherwood Auditorium.