Images of Dancers to Light up the Night Sky at the DJD Dance Centre

By kanderson
4 min read | March 3, 2017

photo credit: David Troyer

The DJD Dance Centre is absolutely radiating with movement. A new art installation, called Take the Cake, by internationally renowned artistic team Hadley+Maxwell, is illuminating the top of the new dance centre. This piece of public art is the result of a national competition to animate the lightbox that crowns the new Kahanoff II Tower.

DJD received $5.4M from The City of Calgary towards the construction of the stunning new DJD Dance Centre at 111-12th Avenue S.E. The Dance Centre is part of a 12-storey tower addition to The Kahanoff Centre. DJD occupies the lower six floors, and the remaining floors above provide office space for other charities such as the United Way and The Calgary Foundation. Part of the cultural MSI funding requires that 1% of the City investment is spent on a public art component – in this case that worked out to approximately $54,000.

The duo Hadley+Maxwell was carefully chosen by a Public Art Jury through a rigorous application process. After being selected, the artists worked with the dancers to make the images that are highlighted in their creation, which was installed it in January of this year. A sophisticated lighting effect was added using 13 Canadian-made 1.5m long fixtures from GVA Lighting. These fixtures, controllable in 300mm segments, create an illusion of movement from the figures in the mural. DJD has just flipped the switch so the facility’s stirring new piece of art truly comes to life when the sun goes down.

“The lightbox is located on top of the newly constructed tower,” says DJD Executive Director Kathi Sundstrom. “It offers a largescale canvas with a vista towards downtown and engages on a wider conversation about dance/art in the public skyline. We are excited by the work that Hadley+Maxwell have done and how this piece of art further animates the building like a beacon in the sky.”

The lightbox wall faces north and measures approximately 20’ tall x 60’ wide with a 4’ clear space in front. It will have a larger presence at night when it can be illuminated and gives the illusion of moving bodies. Hadley+Maxwell, who are known for their work with movement and light, was the perfect team to create a piece that supports DJD’s mission while animating the company’s new home.

Artist Statement 

Take the Cake engages DJD’s mission to preserve, promote and evolve jazz dance as a form that originates in cultural fusions, everyday life, and community participation. The work is a permanent public mural over 20 meters in length that fills the lightbox crowning DJD’s new building in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline. The mural itself is a representation of shadows cast by dancers performing an interpretation of a Cakewalk –walking, strutting, and dancing across the space. The high chroma figures are animated by an accompanying multicolored LED light choreography that adds movement to the image, making it appear as though the figures are parading across the top of the building.

The Cakewalk is an historical dance form and an early antecedent of jazz. It was first practiced in the 1850s by African-American chattel slaves who had been brought to work on American plantations during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, eventually becoming a popular form in musical theatre and contributing to the development of ragtime, jazz, and contemporary
competitive dance forms like Breakdance, Voguing and Freestyle battles. Parodying the Minuet ball dance popular at parties of white plantation owners, the Cakewalk references African, Seminole and European dance traditions. Participants would parade in pairs in a grand march with an exaggerated grace that was often comedic – the couple judged to be the winners would “take the cake.”

The imagery for Take the Cake was gathered by working with DJD’s Artistic Director Kimberley Cooper and the DJD dancers to create a contemporary Cakewalk. The dancers’ shadows–cast on the wall of the studio with multicolored lights—were filmed and translated into the silhouettes that have become the mural’s figures. These silhouettes–freed from their specific identifying traits like gender, race and class–are expressive bodies without labels echoing the movement of pedestrians at street level in a celebration of community and collaboration. 

Many of their past works have used light in powerful ways and their use of lighting in this installation creates a sense of movement and vibrancyto match the dynamic movement that is going on inside.


Hadley+Maxwell’s interdisciplinary practice engages the histories of diverse artistic and pop cultural movements in order to rework both iconic images and traditional forms. Using direct touch, transposition and reconfiguration, their works excavate absent and forgotten images, bringing attention to the ideologies of monument, memorial and memory. 

Hadley Howes and Maxwell Stephens have been collaborating as Hadley+Maxwell since 1997. Public presentations of their work have included solo exhibitions at Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver),

Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Kunstverein Göttingen (Germany), Smart Project Space (Amsterdam), and Project Art Centre (Dublin), groups exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Witte de With (Rotterdam), National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Seattle Art Museum, the Power Plant (Toronto), Kunstraum München, La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, and at the 19th Biennale of Sydney and the 4th Marrakech Biennale.

Take the Cake is one of the first projects created by the public art initiative Studio of Received Ideas where Hadley and Maxwell are co-creative directors. More of their work can be seen online at and

Hadley Howes (b. Toronto 1973) lives and works in Toronto.

Maxwell Stephens (b. Montreal 1966) lives and works in Berlin.