The return of jazz dance

Kimberley Cooper retraced the rise and descent of North American jazz dance: It is primarily a folk dance mixed by African slaves and the Europeans who enslaved them. But it died out with the Second World War, bebop and the taxation of dance halls.

“It was kind of lost in the world, and that’s sad,” said Cooper over the phone.

“Very few dancers, now, dance to jazz music.”

But Decidedly Jazz Danceworks is dedicated to change that.

Since 1984, the Calgary-based dance company has presented 40 full-length productions and held workshops around the world.

Just as jazz music has a lot of improvising, jazz dance has a lot of improvising, says Cooper, DJD’s artistic associate and resident choreographer.

Her show, wowandflutter, will be seen at the Yukon Arts Centre Thursday and Friday, Oct. 29 and 30.

However, she says it is not “jazz dance”.

“It is not jazz dance if you aren’t dancing to jazz music,” she says. The music, by Amon Tobin, is electronic with sampling and mixing, but “the show relates to what we do in the jazz world.

“It comes from the same place as jazz.

“The music is groovy; it definitely has that same relationship with music. “DJD is music for the eyes, so this is just different music.”

Cooper, who will dance in Whitehorse because one of the dancers had a baby, says wowandflutter is “pretty magical”.

“You meet a creature, a portal into his world; you go down the rabbit hole into a world that is ever-changing: the bottom of the ocean, to outer space, to a video game, to creatures who, in our minds, are giraffes, but are hairy mammoths.”

It will be 21 segments of nonlinear dance. “Like a concept album,” says Cooper.

She offers much credit to the landscape created by set designer, David Hoffos.

While the company is here, DJD will hold workshops on Saturday, Oct. 31. They will cover roots, jazz, afro-funk and West African dance. Information is available from Melissa at 334-2031 or

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