IN CHARCOAL AND CRIMSON
Decidedly Jazz Danceworks
Runs until June 11
Decidedly Jazz Danceworks is carrying on tradition. Choreographer, dancer and teacher Alice Murdoch opened Calgarys first multi-technique dance school in the 1920s. Murdoch and her students, including her daughter Vicki Adams Willis, co-founder of DJD, have influenced and expanded Albertas dance scene over the years. The Grand Theatre was the favourite venue for the Alice Murdoch School of Dancing Annual Revue, dubbed a "dont miss" event in Calgarys entertainment life.
Now DJD is part of the celebration of The Grands exciting renovation, and one of the first dance companies to perform in Calgarys newest and oldest performance space.
To celebrate the connection with Murdoch, artistic associate Kimberley Cooper, choreographer of Charcoal & Crimson, is dedicating her show to the memory of Murdoch, who travelled alone to study dance in Paris, New York or wherever her technique and talent could be developed, at a time when women could hardly cross the street without an escort.
Cooper says she sees the same spirit in Willis, who co-founded a jazz company and kept it thriving for more than 20 years, despite slurs that jazz is American history and no uppity Canadian company should be messing with it.
During a rehearsal in the Opera Centre, Cooper was reminding the four women and three men that their facial expressions would be clearly visible to the audience members 150 on each side. A real treat for audiences, but a challenge for the dancers, whose eyes and every nuance of their interpretation of Coopers first major work will be "practically in your laps," as she sees it. With seven dancers on stage at all times, viewers eyes will be tempted in many directions.
Cooper explains that one world is cold and metallic. "We have no set, but when I spoke to the lighting designer (Harry Frehner), I said, I see post-war Germany meets Blade Runner."
Using The Grands lighting board, which moves down into view during the show, Frehner will create grid-patterns and other illusions.
"I see in my mind all these skeletons of trashed-out buildings that people just left the ruins of, and the skyscrapers built on top of them. This is a culture that is obsessed with coldness, metal and going up. The main character in that world is an architect who has tried to build these skyscrapers to escape. He wants something more. He feels somethings missing, and then one day he finds proof of that when he sees this brilliant crimson creature. His journey is about finding his way into their world, which happens at the end of Act One. And then Act Two is how he manages to become one of them," says Cooper.
The creation process followed a jazzy route, with improvisation through jam sessions. The musicians created the music and a musical style for the show that is more like a movie score than a series of tunes. At times, the call and response of jazz is played out between a DJ and the live musicians.
"This show is about pushing boundaries. Id like people to come to the show with open minds because its different than the typical DJD show. Its more contemporary. I think you can still see and feel the jazz in it, both in the dance and the music," says Cooper. " I think the seed of it all is jazz, but some people might not see that. And thats OK."