Jazz dance is not just any rhythmic motion done to jazz music. Its traits are distinctive, as the Joffrey Ballet slyly showed Tuesday night at Wolf Trap.
In "Moves," Jerome Robbins' ballet "about relationships," there is just a touch of jazz in a quivering hip or thrusting arm. The ballet begins with academic classroom steps, introduces dramatic gestures and then fuses them with the steps. The bits of jazz seem to be signs of youthfulness in characters who are between the adults of Robbins' "Age of Anxiety" and the teen-agers of his "West Side Story."
"Touch Me," Gerald Arpino's solo for Christian Holder, shows jazz in its gospel guise with allusions to its African roots and American modern dance sequels. Holder wears a pair of skirt pants that do their own dance and divert from the intended pathos.
The most obvious and, to American eyes, curious use of jazz in ballet is Frederick Ashton's "Jazz Calendar." Ashton and his composer, Richard Rodney Bennett, have created a set of scenes based on the rhyme "Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace. . . ." It is lightweight work but with choreographic gems as Ashton pursues his exploration of the body's line in motion.
The threesome in the "Tuesday" section seem to parody the choreographer's great abstract ballet "Monotones," and Denise Jackson and Gregory Huffman in the "Friday" section sex act duet work themselves into entwined attitudes that are visually stunning. The jazz elements, though, are suave and slinky ones of the follies or the capering one of music fall - which are very distant cousins to the drive of jazz in American musicals.