Dedicated to dance
since 1910.

Buy Latest Issue

The bigger picture of jazz dance

Posted on September 25, 2018


A new film aims to uncover the traditions of jazz dance. Zak Nemorin, West End performer and head of jazz at Millennium Performing Arts, wanted to honour his mentor Jacki Mitchell with a film; in collaboration with director Khadifa Wong and producer Lisa Donmall-Reeve, the project has grown into an in-depth film that will be a go-to resource for dance lovers, teachers, historians and more. Transmission – Roots to Branches looks at the “bigger picture” of jazz dance. “I wasn’t interested in a project that looked at just one facet of jazz dance, when the subject is so vast,” said Donmall-Reeve.

Wong’s research brought up the frustrations of her own experiences as a dancer of colour in the UK. “I was never taught the true heritage of jazz dance,” she says. “My understanding was always that it started with Robbins, Fosse, Giordano, when in truth its roots were the dances of slaves in the Deep South that brought their rhythms and traditions with them.” Now the trio aims to tell the story of jazz dance from its earliest inception in the Deep South, aligning it with issues of racism, social structure and social trends.

Filmed in London, New York, Chicago, Charlotte, Greensboro, Providence and Los Angeles, the film features interviews and classes with a stellar cast, including Chita Rivera, Susan Stroman, Arlene Phillips, Craig Revel Horwood, Bonnie Langford, Debbie Allen, Drew McOnie, Andy Blankenbeuhler and more.

Now in the final stages of production, the filmmakers are seeking funds to complete the film. “We know people love to watch jazz dance, but it doesn’t garner the same establishment support that ballet and contemporary does,” says Wong. “If we had even a fraction of the money that ballet gets, we would be able to finish this film easily”. Members of the public who donate to the film will be recognised in the credits – visit for details. There are also options for larger for-profit investors, including special credits, invitations to screenings and more. Potential investors should contact Lisa Donmall-Reeve at

You can watch a trailer for the film exclusive to Dancing Times below

Main photograph: Filming of Transmission – Roots to Branches with Drew McOnie. By Daryl Getman.


Simon Oliver has been production editor of Dancing Times since 2010 and is highly experienced in design across print and online magazine production. Throughout his career, Simon has worked on a diverse range of subjects including music, family history, book collecting and poker.

Connect with Dancing Times: