Calgary’s DJD takes the stage at prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts

By Stephen Hunt - CTV News Calgary
2 min read | August 12, 2023

Calgary’s Decidedly Jazz Danceworks is no secret to dance-loving Calgarians, but this week, the critically-acclaimed contemporary dancers are being showcased at one of the United States most prestigious dance festivals.

The company were invited to perform at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts. It’s the 91st season for Jacob’s Pillow, making it America’s longest-running dance festival. It’s been described as a “hub and mecca” of dancing by Time Magazine and “the dance centre of the nation” by the New York Times, so it was quite a coup for a Calgary dance company to cop an invite to perform there.

The full company of nine dancers, along with a six-piece band led by Rubim de Toledo and vocalist Karimah are performing artistic director Kimberley Cooper’s choreography from Family of Jazz, which had its world premiere in Calgary in April, 2022.

“(It’s) a joyous celebration,” Cooper said, in a 2022 interview with CTV News about the show. “(It’s a) jazz concert for the ears and eyes (that’s) dynamic, colourful, physical, groovy, beautiful. (It’s a) big breath of fresh air!”

East coast dance lovers also got to experience the value-add that DJD tries to bring to every performance – namely a soundtrack performed by a live band, an increasing rarity in a digital landscape where it’s cheaper to roll tape than pay musicians, much to Cooper’s dismay.

“The relationship between dance and music is essential to jazz and having a live band takes that relationship to the next level,” she said.

Family of Jazz had its world premiere at the DJD Dance Centre in Calgary in April 2022

Jacob’s Pillow artistic and executive director Pamela Tatge agrees.

“We believe the presentation of DJD will be an asset to Jacob’s Pillow,” Tatge said in release. “They are one of the few North American dance companies dedicated to jazz and will serve an important role in representing this social dance form with a rich history in its North America evolution.

“We are eager to welcome their dedicated cultivation of this dance form to our historic dance festival to further elevate the genre of jazz in the international dance ecology.”

DJD has been performing Family of Jazz since Wednesday and have two more performances this weekend. They’re also leading classes and engaging in outreach activities.

DJD company performing Family of Jazz at jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Aug.9, 2023. (Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima/Courtesy Jacob’s Pillow)