Professor discusses new book, theatrical jazz

Joe Morris

Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, associate professor of African and African diaspora studies and theater and dance, discussed her book, “Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àse, and the Power of the Present Moment,” and the importance of theatrical jazz in society at a round table discussion Wednesday. Participants read excerpts as Jones focused on important passages dealing with themes of race, self-identity, and conformity.

“Theatrical jazz allows for different ideologies and life experiences to be expressed,” Jones said. “These expressions can be used to give insight into race, sexuality, and gender.”

According to Oxford Dictionary of Dance, theatrical jazz has played an integral role in both music and culture. Jazz began in New Orleans in the early 20th centur, and since then, it has played a role in both the music industry and African American culture.

“The combination of jazz and theatre allows for the individual to escape from the societal pressures and stereotypes that can restrict the image of one’s self,” Jones said.

Brent Crosson, assistant professor of religious studies who attended the event, said he was impressed by what he heard.

“I came because I really enjoy jazz music, and the ideas that were presented throughout the discussion really clicked,” Crosson said.

Jones encouraged the audience to pursue their dreams by tying it to theatrical jazz.

“Theatre allows an individual to express their soul and be themselves,” Jones explained. “Likewise, college students such as yourselves should try to pursue who you are and what you want. If you want that PhD, you get that PhD.”

Jeremy O’Brian, African and African diaspora studies graduate student, said he really enjoyed the experience.

“I just came because my mentor helped set this up, but I was really struck by how different this was,” O’Brian said. “The whole experience was very interesting and thought-provoking. I am glad I came.”