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N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz was choreographed only a year after the landmark West Side Story opened on Broadway — the dancers in this ballet in sneakers evoke a post-war New York City with their cool jazz moves and angst-ridden beats.
N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz was first performed by Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: U.S.A. at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, in June of 1958. The following are revised program notes from that production, concerning the youth and dances of the late 1950s.
There has always been a tremendous amount of popular dancing in America. At this time its vitality has reached a new high, developing and expanding in form and style from the major and basic contributions of the African-American and Latin-American. Because of a strong unconscious emotional kinship with those minority roots, teenagers particularly have popularized these dances. Feeling very much like a minority group in this threatening and explosive world, the young have so identified with the dynamics, kinetic impetus, the drives and ‘coolness’ of today’s jazz steps that these dances have become an expression of our youths’ outlook and their attitudes toward the contemporary world around them, just as each era’s dance has significantly reflected the character of our changing world and a manner of dealing with it.
N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz is a formal, abstract ballet based on the kinds of movements, complexities of rhythms, expressions of relationships, and qualities of atmospheres found in today′s dance.
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