Patti Rutland originally founded Patti Rutland Jazz (PRJ) in 1981 as a studio-centric, amateur dance company based at what was then Oz Performing Arts Center. After retiring from the studio business in 2003, Patti Rutland and Vince Vidal Johnson drew up a plan to revive the PRJ company to the dance world at the 2005 Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago. There the company would compete for the most prestigious choreographic honor in the world of jazz dance, the Leo’s “Gold Shoe.” It had been Patti’s dream since 1990 to win that award, since many of the choreographers she respected most in the dance world had been to that same pinnacle… and the Bronze Award already sitting on Rutland’s mantle from the 1996 competition was getting lonely. Patti and Vince returned to the studio together, and in just a few short rehearsals assembled a “company” of dancer friends from around the country to perform at the Congress. From those rehearsals emerged a new style of movement that blended the historically rich jazz styles that Patti had studied throughout her career with the newest organic and explosive hip hop styles that Vince brought from his music industry career as a dancer and choreographer. The outcome of that fateful meeting of the minds not only secured the Gold Award in Chicago, but yielded attention from the dance press at the Congress but also rave reviews from audiences throughout the event.
The win at The Jazz Dance World Congress launched a whole new direction for the “new” Patti Rutland Jazz company. As PRJ’s core mission evolved, in 2006 they became a 501C-3 Non-Profit Corporation driven by a professional dance company that presents 3 concerts each season. The second part of the PRJ vision was outreach. The company wanted to provide dance scholarship opportunities to under-served children in Dothan, AL and surrounding “Wiregrass Area” communities.
In 2012, Patti Rutland Jazz became a professional company and offers 36 week contracts to 12 dancers each year. (6 men and 6 women) The company was also listed as one of the top 15 jazz dance companies to watch in the United States in Dance Informa magazine. These dancers in turn are the teachers and mentors of the Patti Rutland Jazz Outreach Program that now provides weekly dance classes to over 6000 students weekly through the Dothan City School System. Feeling the need to offer more for some of the students that were inspired in the Outreach Program, Patti Rutland Jazz opened a dance center for dancers of all ages and experience in 2011. Partial scholarships and full scholarships are available for students unable to afford the full tuition rate. Through the studio, a young men’s ensemble and a young ladies ensemble was formed in 2013 for serious students that want to pursue performance opportunities with the professional company.
The ultimate vision is to define Dothan as a destination for dance audiences and a vital source for dance professionals. To that end, PRJ operates a well-respected dance company comprised of adults from all over the United States. The dancers in this company are the essential resource necessary to provide the teachers that make outreach possible. Without the PRJ professional dance company, there would be no outreach.
While PRJ’s creative identity has emerged as a jazz, contemporary and hip-hop company; yearly auditions are held in June to recast for the following season. Auditions are open to any dancer and all disciplines of dance are welcomed and encouraged. The PRJ company is enriched through its diversity. This new multilateral approach provides the atmosphere, vision and opportunity that makes PRJ one of the most compelling and innovative dance companies in the United States.