Events, Performances

Olio – Artistic Director’s Message

By Kimberley Cooper
2 min read | January 9, 2024


DJD is an interesting mix of firsts and traditions. As jazz artists, we celebrate the history and traditions of the form, and we are constantly innovating, which is also a jazz tradition. We are creation based, which means a lot of firsts, Olio is no exception.

First, a little history:

In 1993 Vicki Adams Willis, DJD’s founding Artistic Director and now Founder in Residence, began the tradition of the dancer choreographed show which, since 2000, has become a bi or tri annual occurrence. DJD is a rare in the world jazz dance company, finding like-minded jazz artists is tough, so, for the future of DJD, and for the future of jazz dance, investing in our dancers as choreographers has been important.

After choreographing in many dancer choreographed shows (and having fruitful independent choreographic careers) company dancers Sabrina Naz Comănescu, Catherine Hayward and Kaja Irwin, for the first time in a DJD concert setting, have been invited to create new work with a composer and live music (dancer choreographed shows use recorded tunes). Jonathan McCaslin is that composer and band leader of this fabulous trio including Chris Tauchner (keys) and Jonathan Wielebnowski (bass) who are joining us for the first time. It’s also Jon’s first time as a DJD composer and musical director, although he has played for many DJD shows since 2011.

It is a great pleasure to welcome Deanne Walsh back as a choreographer. Deanne danced in the company for many years and choreographed pieces in several dancer choreographed performances during that time. This is Deanne’s first live music DJD commission. You will see some other firsts in this performance tonight—there are some pieces in this show that, for the first time ever, will be determined by you, as you will choose the musician, the theme, and/or the music for some improvisations that will be performed for the first, and only time ever.

The name “Olio” came from old images of vaudeville, Olio was a common title for those variety shows, an olio was also the name for a short number that happened in front of the curtain while the set was being changed behind it. It can also be used for a stew, or a collection of things. It is the Italian word for olive oil, and apparently some jazz musicians used oleo as a slang for heroin. Oleo was also a brand of margarine and the name of a Sonny Rollins tune.

Let me be the first to welcome you to our OLIO! It is a bit of a stew, a variety show, or better yet, a collection of firsts based in history and tradition. Enjoy!

Kimberley Cooper
Artistic Director


January 18–28