Explore Dance

History of DJD

By Decidedly Jazz Danceworks
< 1 min read | August 18, 2021

In 1984, Vicki Adams Willis who had founded the jazz dance department at the University of Calgary, and two of her graduating students, Michèle Moss and Hannah Stilwell, co-founded DJD to help keep the spirit of jazz alive.  

The core aesthetic of DJD’s work is African-rooted, and swing-based with jazz music at its heart.  Working with live music every season since 1988, DJD explores the defining aspects of rooted jazz forms and philosophies. The DJD professional company also gains inspiration from rare, like-minded international guest choreographers, and carefully nurtures choreographic talent within the company to ensure its future. The “DJD style” has evolved out of the work of the company’s founding and current artists and their vast research. As progressive historians, they are purposefully aware of and connected to the African and historical roots and spirit of jazz, as well as committed to the evolution and future of the form. 

DJD honours the essential jazz relationship between dancers and musicians, and often commissions music from and performs with live musicians. Some of DJD’s collaborators include notables such as the late Big Miller, the late Tommy Banks, Mark Murphy, PJ Perry, Jackie Richardson, George Koller, Amon Tobin, Rubim de Toledo, Chris Andrew, Nick Fraser, Kristian Alexandrov and ¡Bomba!. 

DJD has toured extensively throughout Canada and abroad. In 2004/05, DJD premiered excerpts from ¡BULLA! at the Havana International Jazz Festival in Cuba and performed the original dance and music creation in 13 cities across Canada. DJD has toured Canada many times, most recently with Juliet & Romeo in the fall of 2019