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PEOPLE OF DJD//

There are many people that make up the community at the DJD Dance Centre. From artists, administrators, volunteers and beyond, these walls are pulsing with personality.

MICHÈLE MOSS
DJD Co-Founder
Dance artist, choreographer, writer, scholar and educator – also known as Professor Moss, tenured associate professor at the University of Calgary

1.WHEN DID YOU START DANCING? DID YOU KNOW RIGHT AWAY IT WOULD BE A BIG PART OF YOUR LIFE?

I started dancing at a very early age. My mother says I started at two years old in the local dance school in Liverpool, UK. Of course, I remember little from that time, but I can see something in those early pictures – pure joy. Those same pictures do create a swirl of positive emotions inside me. It seems that I have loved dancing, and music, forever. I was very lucky to have a mother and father who appreciated and respected the activity. I was also very fortunate that the UK educational system advocated for dance and the many benefits of the pastime. When reflecting on my journey I feel I knew quite early that it would always be part of my life because of the pure delight I felt when in class and on the stage. The moment I really knew was when I moved to Canada, a Centennial year immigrant, and attended Saturday school at Montreal’s NCC. I attended the Negro Community Centre in downtown Montreal, far from my suburban home, because I loved the environment. It was a wonderful blessing to attend the NCC and although the memories are mostly fuzzy I recognize that the experience was seminal.

2. WHAT INTRIGUED YOU THE MOST ABOUT JAZZ?

I encountered jazz music at the NCC but also in my home. Both my parents were devoted and passionate music lovers, non-professional vocalists and aficionados/collectors. To this day my mother can rattle the windows of her home with the volume at which she plays her favourite artists. These artists are more what we at DJD call the ‘cousins of jazz’: soul, gospel, calypso, reggae and R&B music were, and are, most often found on the turntable.
I came to understand and appreciate jazz from the centre of the form back out to the edges, this early educational journey was provided by Vicki Willis. I was excited, indeed overjoyed, to dig into the form. Of course, Louis Armstrong, Ella and Duke were played in my childhood home, but I had a lot to learn and Vicki was a great teacher. Vicki took the time to reveal to me the standards, the luminaries, the form variations and how to appreciate the different sounds. I have gone on to find many musician teachers, guides and collaborators. What has always intrigued me about music in general is percussiveness, the groove, the rhythm section! I am drawn to funky and soulful sounds. I love instrumentals and love jazz vocals-it’s the storytelling I am drawn to. I love going back in history and indeed have made my focus the roots of jazz, the West African contributions to jazz music and dance. I found, and find, intense joy in African music and dance as well as Cuban. I thrill at watching and dancing Senegalese sabar and any number of Guinean traditional dances. The Atlantic slave trade brought my ancestors to Jamaica and music niches such as ‘blue-eyed soul’ and R&B are evidence of my British ancestors’ interest in the mind-body connection and artistic expression through music and dance. I feel that it is my cultural legacy. The breadth of the jazz genre is so intriguing I’m sure I will not come to the end of my research before my end. I am interested in unpacking my passionate embodied response to all kinds and genres of jazz music. The topic has long intrigued me, I love listening intently –on a headset but being on the dance floor is my favourite place to be and I like to share all I have learned.

3.WHAT WAS IT LIKE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF DJD?

The opportunity to make dances for the concert stage has been such a fantastic and ongoing thrill. Experiencing creative expression, collaboration and being a member of a community –local and global-is very fulfilling. The current meme and expression about finding your tribe and loving them hard is what happened from day one. Beyond the pure pleasure of digging around in the musical inspiration, engaging in embodied creativity, expansion of imagination, intellectual stimulation, emotional outlet, ability to jump into the flow of innovation and study a historical form, it’s really been all about the people. The DJD family- past and present- is what has made the journey so great. From BFF, Hannah Stilwell to mentor, Vicki Willis and husband, Damon Johnston to the many company dancers—what would live have been like without my DJD family?!
The ealy days were bright and alive with camaraderie, support and solidarity and I loved it, I feel so lucky to have experienced that! Then the icing on the cake was to take our offerings, crafted with earnestness and devotion, and share it with an audience, it was a gift. I learned so much from those glory days about jazz, performance creation and about Michèle. Those days, and these days, are rich and exciting. Many years of primary source embodied research around the world— and considerable book-learnin’—have provided a great foundation for a career as artist, educator and scholar—it continues to be a great ride!

4.HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MOVEMENT AND APPROACH TO DANCE NOW?

So many of the foundational licks and riffs are burned into my muscle memory. These include early weight transfer training from tap, style research undertaken on the discotheque floor and on the African continent. I’ve been social dancing, as well as studying technique in traditional western-style dance classes, for many decades now and I continue to be inspired by theatrical and social dance, urban practices and cultural dance forms. I am also deeply captivated by music from back in the day and contemporary music. I love working with musicians and exchanging ideas and learning more and more. I do take some pride in rooting out the gems and sharing/creating great pairings for my students. Many of my movement choices and my creation approach moves ever more toward a high degree of playfulness, groove and R&S, rhythm and style. Oh and… (inset breathlessness) exploration of the human condition, lived experience, emotion, imagination, inspiration, ritual, (more breathlessness) visual art, storytelling, design, music and hmmm, errrr, simply…life!

The post PEOPLE OF DJD – MICHÈLE MOSS appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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PEOPLE OF DJD//

There are many people that make up the community at the DJD Dance Centre. From artists, administrators, volunteers and beyond, these walls are pulsing with personality.

RUBIM DE TOLDEO
Musical Director, Bass and Banjo

1.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH DJD?

My first experience with DJD was playing bass in the Cuban-inspired show, Bulla, back in 2005. Since then I have worked extensively as one of DJD’s musical directors. I have been musical director and composer for 11 DJD shows.

2.HOW IS EACH EXPERIENCE WITH DJD DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER?

Musically each show deals with different Jazz-influenced musical genres or styles. Sometimes it is very traditional jazz and other times very contemporary and modern. As well, DJD’s music can incorporate World music elements like African, Brazilian, and Cuban styles. Other styles we have utilized are hip-hop, funk, R’n’B, blues, and electronic music influences.   

3.TELL US ABOUT THE MUSICAL STYLINGS FOR LOVESTRUCK. WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION?

Musically, the inspiration for Lovestruck, roughly-speaking, came from 1920 to 40’s jazz, New Orleans, and blues influences. With Lovestruck we have tried to capture the essence of that era and those styles while still pushing the sound of the production forward in time. It was a real challenge to try to retain a classic sound while pushing those barriers with vast modern-sounding soundscapes. With the musical score for Lovestruck I tried to include many diverse sonic influences that would keep the audience engaged, curious, and entertained while not risking distracting from the visual era established by the choreography, set, and costumes. 

The post PEOPLE OF DJD – RUBIM DETOLEDO – DOUBLE BILL EDITION appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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$5 Class Week – Come move with us…

At DJD we believe everyone can dance, the desire to move, is in all of us! Because of this belief, we offer over 50 classes for adults of all abilities each week. We get it, having over 50 classes to choose from can seem overwhelming, so we have created some questions to guide you through finding the right class for you.

1)What kind of music do you listen to?
This is a big one. With music being the influencer of dance, a good place to start is what you personally like listening to. Do you have more of a classical ear? Try a ballet class! Has it one of those typical Calgary winters and you crave the sounds of the tropical sounds of Soca or Dancehall? Do you like to get down to some seriously funky beats like you would in a Funk or Hip Hop class? Choose a class that will not only keep your body occupied, but your ear as well!

2) What kind of workout are you looking for?
Dance is hard in the best possible way. It pushes us to remember, feel, listen and coordinate our bodies every time we step into the studio. The intensity and directness of this can be navigated through addressing, what am I here for? Cardio? Try a West African or House class. Do you want to stretch and strengthen? Contemporary or Modern will push you to the right lengths. Are you looking for something precise and met with discipline? Try a Ballet class or even a Ballet Barre Works class. Narrow down a specific goal and next session, you’ll tackle the next!

3) What kind of things are you into? Travel, history?
Aside from the movement and music, many dance styles have rich histories. Our signature jazz style hones in on vernacular and authentic jazz rooted in blues, swing and funk styles. Maybe what you’re looking for is a connection to those bold voices like Louie Armstrong or Nina Simone. Or you want to learn about the rhythms and movement of where the connection of music and dance came from. Stepping into a West African class can set you on track with the purest forms of music and movement. Pair that with a Hip Hop class and see how the grooves have evolved.

Need more help? Come in and try a class. We start each session off with a $5 Class Week so come move with us April 29th – May 2nd

The post $5 Class Week – Come move with us… appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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PEOPLE OF DJD//

There are many people that make up the community at the DJD Dance Centre. From artists, administrators, volunteers and beyond, these walls are pulsing with personality.

SARAH DOUCET
DJD Costume Designer

1.HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH DJD?

This is my second show with DJD, the first being Juliet & Romeo.

2. HOW HAS YOUR DANCE CAREER AFFECTED HOW YOU DESIGN COSTUMES?

I’m not sure I would be doing costume design if it weren’t for my dance career to be honest.
Costumes for dance are in a league of their own and there are countless things to consider:
They have to endure hyper physicality and countless washes, if the wrong fabric is used, sweat can alter the colour, a small dancer might need a medium or large size, depending on how much they move. If the movements are big, for example, a dress or shirt might ride up if the arms are raised and they stay there when they’re lowered so a bigger size is required, especially if they sweat a lot, if the show has a lot of floor work or partnering, for example, the choice of fabrics and cuts become paramount.
First and foremost, before I take measurements or get into ideas of a costume, I ask each dancer if they have any likes/dislikes in terms of fabric, fit, if there are injuries that might affect the fit of a costume, allergies to certain fabrics, if there are designs or cuts that they don’t like or don’t make them feel amazing, anything that will affect them negatively. This is key for me. A dancer in an awkward or uncomfortable costume is not going to give their best performance. Being distracted by a weird seam or odd fit or worried something might break or pop open can potentially ruin the whole performance.
The costumes should enhance and compliment the choreography, make the dancer feel strong, confident and worry free.

3. WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE COSTUMES FOR LOVESTRUCK?

There were a few, but the starting point was the garden scene from the 1927 silent film Metropolis. It’s a weird and surreal scene where everyone is dressed in these fantastic creations that even now, are remarkable in their construction and design.
Apart from that, honestly, it’s the dancers that inspired me the most. This cast is remarkable in their individuality and I always try to make that a focal point.
Kaja, for example plays Artemis, the Goddess of animals and the hunt, who is also cursed to be a goat and is a careless smoker. That in itself is rich in imagery and potential. Instantly I knew her colour palate would be off whites, beiges, rich in textures, burnt edges, etc.
As the women are all goddesses, there needed to be an element of protection, armour and strength but also a softness and sensuality that couldn’t be ignored.
Also, Kim is wildly imaginative and creative and lets me play and try new things, which is inspiration in itself.

4. HOW DO YOU STAY INSPIRED FOR YOUR DESIGNS?

I’m a huge people watcher. I can sit in public for hours (and do!) and be constantly captivated by how people present themselves to the world, trying to decipher why they made certain choices and what they are trying to say about themselves.
I’m also a devoted thrift shopper. If I’m searching for ideas, more times than not I will find a thrift store, put headphones on super loud and go through every item on the racks. If something catches my eye, in the cart. Thrift stores are probably the best resource centres out there for clothing and possibilities. No two things are the same, it’s a crash course in textures, fabrics, design, fit, and construction. I’ve been collecting vintage clothing and accessories for decades now and am constantly fascinated by its longevity and durability. Most of my costume designs have an element of vintage in them.

5. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?

Now more than ever, the issue of fast fashion and the monumental negative effects it has on the environment is a massive issue for me. The amount of water needed for just one t-shirt is mind boggling; the use of toxic chemicals is rampant, garments with lycra, polyester, stretch take hundreds of years to breakdown (if ever).
Also, the massive garment factory fires in South Asia a few years back put it all into perspective for me. Over a thousand lives were lost while making garments for the fast fashion industry, getting paid extremely poorly, and treated worse. I couldn’t justify being a part of that cycle. Especially when thrift stores are overflowing with it, there’s no reason to buy new.

The post PEOPLE OF DJD – SARAH DOUCET – DOUBLE BILL EDITION appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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PEOPLE OF DJD//

There are many people that make up the community at the DJD Dance Centre. From artists, administrators, volunteers and beyond, these walls are pulsing with personality.

MYRIAM ALLARD
Co-Artistic Director of La Otra Orilla

1. TELL US ABOUT LA OTRA ORILLA

Hedi and I go way back. We met in Spain 20 years ago, in Sevilla, where we were both based for a few years. When Hedi immigrated to Montreal, we decided to found our company and call it La Otra Orilla, The Other Shore, which can take many meanings. Literally, we are on the other side of the ocean in relationship to Spain. Also, Hedi was born on the other side of the Mediterranean sea which adds to that idea. Metaphorically, together we are a mix of French, Tunisian, Greek, British, French Manitoban… and all these different cultures have made their way into our art, creating “another” flamenco. We anchor our work in Flamenco and it’s ever so grounded energy, but we also open a dialogue with other art forms, creating unexpected meetings and alliances. For each production we collaborate with artists that inspire us, to build unique pieces that combine dance, music, literature, theatre… Always following the same guiding principal; a quest of authenticity, humanity and poetry.

2.TELL US ABOUT MAGNETIKAE

Being a flamenco dancer from Canada that has known winter since birth, with skates on her feet long before wearing heels to stomp on the ground. Being born in Tunisia, becoming a flamenco singer and moving to Canada, discovering winter and entering some sort of survival mode to face this culture shock.
MAGNETIKAE is born of different inspirations… the concept of cold, our relationship with 6 months of winter, the beauty and light of white snowy landscapes, the unforgiveness of a freezing night, the sounds of ice cracking, the sounds of footsteps on snow on a very cold day… All this builds a powerful imaginary in which we decided to dive full-heartedly to create this show. There is also something enticing about dropping flamenco in a cold, Arctic setting. And a lot of curiosity to see what would become of it!

3. HOW DID YOU BECOME A FLAMENCO DANCER?

My home was always filled with music and dance. Not in a professional way, but with a lot of passion nonetheless. We danced every chance we had. If there was no special occasion we would invent one, build shows, create choreogaphy. When I was 18, I saw Claude Lelouch’s film La Belle Histoire. I bought the soundtrack and on it there was some flamenco. That was it. I was hooked. I was drawn to the beauty and power of the music first, and later discovered there was a dance connected to it. I found a teacher in my hometown, Québec City, and threw myself into dance. Shortly after I was living in Spain, training as hard as I could to become a dancer, to deeply understand and assimilate the langage of flamenco, and to experience in my body and soul the culture of this wonderful art form.

4. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL US?

Hedi and I have a way of working that is two headed. We assist each other while we create our works, giving each other feedback and bouncing of each others ideas. As co-directors, we take all artistic decisions together. It comes to a point where we can’t tell anymore who said what, as though there is an understanding, a deep connection, that stands out in the art we create. We are also very fortunate to have at our sides wonderful artists that share their expertise and talent openly and givingly. Which is a blessing.
One last word: Thank you Kim, and all of the DJD team, for this exceptional, wonderful opportunity to share the stage with you for 3 weeks!! We are grateful and excited!

The post PEOPLE OF DJD – Myriam Allard – DOUBLE BILL EDITION appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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PEOPLE OF DJD//

There are many people that make up the community at the DJD Dance Centre. From artists, administrators, volunteers and beyond, these walls are pulsing with personality.

KARIMAH
Singer, songwriter. Narrator of LOVESTRUCK

1. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF!

I am a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, AB. I sing and write in both English and French. I was on the TV show “The Voice Canada” a.k.a “La Voix” in 2017. Fun fact: I also do makeup and modelling on the side!

2. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PERFORMING? WAS SINGING ALWAYS YOUR CREATIVE OUTLET?

I have been performing for 16 years professionally. I loved singing at a very young age. I still have my kindergarten report card from my music teacher who said that I showed a love for singing. I distinctly remember being in church, many feet shorter than all the adults around me, feeling so free because I could sing at the top of my lungs, and that was allowed! From then, I pursued piano, guitar, and songwriting. 

3. WHAT OR WHO HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST INSPIRATION TO YOU?

I am inspired by theatrical and charismatic performers. People like Queen’s Freddy Mercury to  the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin inspire me to express myself in passionate and powerful ways.

4. HAVE YOU WORKED WITH DANCERS BEFORE?

I was part of an incredible tap show last year called “Jenna Werhun Presents: for the arms that have held me”.

5. HAS THIS EXPERIENCE CHANGED HOW YOU WILL WORK IN THE FUTURE?

I have always wanted to work with dancers for my own original projects. This experience has allowed me to see the work that goes into choreography and dance performance. I took jazz dance classes up until junior high, and loved it! Maybe I’ll reignite that side of me for a future music video. If I do, I will be sure to study the pros at DJD!

The post PEOPLE OF DJD – Karimah – DOUBLE BILL EDITION appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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DOUBLE BILL

In 1994, Vicki Adams Willis, founding A.D. of DJD, created a piece called Rhythm Addiction that was one of the most intense dance experiences I ever had the pleasure of being a part of.  It focused on jazz and it’s family, specifically different forms of music and dance related to the forming and evolution of jazz. There were different sections of the piece relating to tap, West African and Latin Jazz, also Bharatanatyam and Flamenco.  Those two forms were the most unfamiliar to us as a company and we worked hard to study the pure forms with experts- Sudha Thakkar for Bharatanatyam, and Claudia Carolina for Flamenco.  I think it was the hardest show, physically and mentally, that I ever danced.  We remounted Rhythm Addiction in 1997 and the Flamenco sections felt better and better in my body.  I went to Spain that summer to study Flamenco in Madrid, it was a profound experience.  I created a jazz/flamenco solo on myself in 1999 to Miles Davis’ tune Portia for a festival in Calgary now known as ADF (Alberta Dance Festival).  The festival was over three weekends and Portia was chosen to be performed in all three weekends of the festival.  I also performed it in the DJD Dancer Choreographed performance Whitehorn (2000), which was my first time as Artistic Director of anything. Flamenco has a special place in my heart and in my body so naturally I was very drawn to the work of La Otra Orilla. 

Double Bill is a new performance presented by DJD this spring.  It is truly 2 shows in one. The first Magnetikae– is an Arctic Flamenco tale- taking place on an ice floe.  The backdrop is white, the performers wear bits of fur, it is beautiful and cool.  This is a new piece created and performed by La Otra Orilla- of Montréal.  I saw them perform at the Fluid Festival in Calgary a few years ago and was struck by their rhythm, whimsy, and sense of relating to the history of flamenco while pushing it in a contemporary direction.  I felt a kinship with them artistically and was thrilled to invite them to share an evening with us. 

 My response to their cool was to create something hot. Lovestruck is very loosely based in Calgary history.  In 1915, on 17th Ave and Centre St.– just down the street from DJD, there was a place called Sherman’s Roller Rink that burned down in Feb of 1915.  I started there, and in my research found some interesting details about Bill Sherman, who was the manager of the rink, and the fire itself.  I have taken many liberties in this version of the story and the circumstances around the fire. There are elements of fairy tale, Greek myth, folklore and some truth throughout.  There is a sense of vaudeville, some puppetry and of course much dancing. Lovestruck features the music of a 5 piece jazz ensemble led by Edmonton bassist Rubim de Toledo, including Bob Tildesley on trumpet, Carsten Rubeling on trombone and tuba, Jon McCaslin on drums and Karimah on vocals and narration.  The music has some old blues tunes as well as some beautiful new pieces by Rubim.  It has been awhile since we have had a vocalist on stage with us.  Karimah is a brilliant and soulful singer and performer and we are able to look at story telling in a different way as she will be narrating the piece as well. 

 It is called Lovestruck because it begins with the premise that everyone wants to be in love.  When we first fall in love, it actually makes us sick, we show symptoms similar to drug addiction and mental illness- we don’t want to eat, or sleep, when we are away from the object of our affection it can be torture, minutes feel like hours, days like weeks.  Yet, we still want it. The piece opens with a group of people calling to Cupid- to please come shoot them with her arrow, to choose them, to make them fall in love.  Cupid arrives, on roller skates of course, and responds to the loudest cry of the group, which is coming from a man named Bill Sherman… 

The post DOUBLE BILL BY KIMBERLEY COOPER appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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WHAT TO WEAR, WHAT TO WEAR?!

Our friends at Holt Renfrew styled up some looks to spark ideas for your outfit for the Black & White Ball. They were inspired by the fun, and playful nature of our party. These looks will allow you to get down on the dance floor!

The post THE BLACK AND WHITE BALL 2019 LOOKS BY HOLT RENFREW appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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Our biggest fundraiser of the year, The Black and White Ball, is just weeks away! Happening March 16th at The Fairmont Palliser, dance the night away, be entertained and take part in our silent auction.

Have a look at some of our Black and White Ball’s from the past and come party with us!

The post THE BLACK AND WHITE BALL 2019 appeared first on Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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