Organizational Member Profile: Decidedly Jazz Danceworks
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Organizational Member Profile: Decidedly Jazz Danceworks

Organizational Member Profile: Decidedly Jazz Danceworks

We at DSW are very enthusiastic about our members, and we decided to launch a member’s profile series to share why we feel this way! Decidedly Jazz Danceworks was the first organizational member to join when I started with DSW, and it is a pleasure to share an exchange with its outstanding AD, Kimberly Cooper. DJD has generously shared an exclusive discount code for DSW Members to Juliet & Romeo as part of the High Performance Rodeo Festival: DSW20

Sasha: You’ve mentioned that you have unique challenges working in jazz in Canada, and that finding intellectual and artistic companionship is something that you’ve had to seek out, from outside of the country. Can you talk a little about this?

Kim: There are very few people making concert jazz dance anywhere that is philosophically, historically, or musically like-minded to us, and for that reason we have always found it difficult to find artistic peers in our form.  We have a few, and have collaborated with dance artists in forms that are roots or family of jazz: tap, West African, Cuban, Flamenco, Hip Hop, etc.  I think jazz dance is a tough form to work in, it has a complicated history and is generally very misunderstood.

But some recent activity has given me new hope…

This summer I attended a conference of American academics working in jazz and I found some wonderful jazz dance people who I feel quite connected to.  In 2018, DJD was part of a documentary about jazz that should be released soon and may help us find artists we did not know about and vice versa.   I’m excited about a new company in Toronto called Holla Jazz, I’ve only seen their work on video, but I definitely dig it. Plus we are now in the New Roaring 20’s, maybe it’s the beginning of a New Jazz Age…

Sasha: You just came back from a major tour! Can you talk about how the work was received, and the nature of the dialogue/conversation with audiences in different cities?

Kim: We were on the road with Juliet & Romeo for almost five weeks this fall- eight cities- two in Alberta, four in the Maritimes, two in Ontario.  Audiences were very responsive; we had standing ovations at every performance.  We did outreach in all of the communities too – we taught workshops and masterclasses, I gave a few talks in high school English classes about how we adapted the play, as well as a couple of creative process talks at Queens University (Kingston) and St. Thomas University (Fredericton).  There were also a couple of pre and post show chats as well.  Audiences were curious about our process- how the dance/story/music came to exist, and in what order, as well as what the draw was to Romeo and Juliet. There is no one Juliet and one Romeo in the piece- the dancers play many different characters, so that was a question, not only for me as to why, but also to the dancers who have to change throughout the piece.  The work seems to resonate with audiences- people know and love the story and, in our version, with the focus on Juliet and the feminist approach, they see the play in a different light.  A woman yelled “I love this show!” during a standing ovation.

Sasha: You have a show coming up! Can you talk a bit about the work and why you are excited about it?

When J&R ends, we will focus on the new piece that we have been working on in the background for the last couple of months.  It’s called Beautiful Noise and it premieres this April.  I’m always excited to make new work, I love creating.  I’m excited about the music, the band is a 6 piece which gives rich choices for sound and feel- we have a drummer and a percussionist, two horns, a bassist and a vocalist. Musically we are inspired by ostinato which refers to a repeating or stubborn phrase in music, often played by the lowest voice in the ensemble, and is common in African based music.   I’m also curious about the noise or stubborn voices in performers heads while they are performing and interested in exploring ways of demystifying (and also mystifying) what we are thinking. We have barely started so we’ll see how it develops- it’s always so fun in the beginning when it seems like anything is possible.