Celebrating Kimberley Cooper’s 10th Anniversary as DJD’s Artistic Director

By Kathi Sundstrom
5 min read | June 19, 2023

How is it possible that 10 years have passed since Kimberley Cooper took on the role of artistic director at DJD? How is it possible when it feels like the blink of an eye?

Kim is the second only artistic director of DJD, following the footsteps of Vicki Adams Willis who held the position for almost 30 years. Vicki and DJD co-founders Michèle Moss and Hannah Stilwell planted the seed for an organization unlike any other in the world; one that was founded on a unique mandate, a unique aesthetic, and a unique and expansive approach to honoring the art of jazz. During Vicki’s time the organization developed deep roots cultivating an important place in the Canadian dance scene. In handing the baton to Kim in 2013, Vicki had this to say:

“Kim has an immense amount of energy and stamina and is exploding with visions and ideas for DJD’s next chapter. Her deep and profound understanding of both the jazz idiom and the essence and breadth of DJD’s work within the idiom, her unwavering respect and immense passion for both our organization and the art form, her remarkable talent and breathtaking imagination, her impeccable work ethic, and her 27 years of dedication to DJD are unbelievable assets to our company and our city.”

Well said!

The plant that started from the original seed and then took root during Vicki’s tenure, has grown and blossomed in beautiful and astonishing ways under Kim’s nurturing care.

DJD is in Kim’s bones and in her blood, in every fibre of her being. When she took on the role of AD, she described her relationship with DJD as a fairy tale: “I saw DJD for the first time in 1984 as a teenager and was swept off my feet. I joined the company right out of high school and have been here ever since. The natural evolution of my position at DJD has been just that, natural.”

Kim’s aspiration at that time was to be brave and bold and to keep pushing herself, the form, the dancers, and the audiences. And man has she delivered! It has always been her passion to innovate and evolve the jazz form in addition to reaching back and creating to the brilliant music of the jazz greats. Over the past 10 years Kim has created more than 15 new works that have done just what she set out to do – pushing the boundaries of the form through collaboration and experimentation (with puppets, clowns, film, flipping Shakespeare on its head) and honoring the greats (like Charles Mingus).

Celebrating Kim’s 10th anniversary couldn’t be sweeter than in this year as the company gains more and more international acclaim – following her time as artist-in-residence at Toronto’s Fall for Dance North Festival (2020-2022) and an appearance at that festival by the DJD Company; after being invited to contribute to the book Rooted in Jazz; following two premieres of Kim’s work in the US, one at Methodist University in Dallas and one at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo earlier this year; and just before the company embarks on an international tour of Family of Jazz which includes performances in Quebec and Ottawa and the triumph of being invited to appear at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival this summer. Located in Becket, Massachusetts, USA, and hosting its 91st season of programming this summer, Jacob’s Pillow is America’s longest-running international dance festival and is known around the world as a “hub and mecca of dancing” (TIME Magazine), and “the dance center of the nation” (The New York Times). DJD is the only Canadian dance company performing at Jacob’s Pillow this summer and the only entirely jazz-based company at the festival. Bravo!

Building on this idea of coming into full bloom, we wanted to share with you a quote from one of the editors of the book Rooted in Jazz, Lindsay Guarino who said: “As I am building a university dance program with a jazz-focused B.A. in Dance curriculum, Kim’s work has been one of the most valuable resources I’ve been able to work with. She is both rooted and innovative, straddling the entirety of the jazz continuum while moving jazz dance forward with her unique voice and creativity. Her work has been a reference, a teaching tool, and so much more for my students. I so strongly feel that when more jazz-minded folks in the states see her work they will understand and appreciate her depth of knowledge and her brilliance.”

We couldn’t agree more. And we couldn’t be happier to celebrate this milestone of 10 years at the helm with our artistic leader Kimberley Cooper.

Congratulations Kim!

Check out some of our highlights of Kimberley Cooper throughout the years.

2004 – 20th Anniversary Jam

2005 – BULLA!

2007 – Magnetic Consequences

2009 – Twenty Five

2011 – Wilds
2013 – First day as Artistic Director

2015 – The Black & White Ball

2017 – Calgary Herald’s Compelling Calgarian

2022 – Kimberley Cooper and Carsten Rubeling for Nervous Systems 

2023 – The Black & White Ball