27 Mar

Happy 37th Anniversary DJD! – A Message from Founder Vicki Adams Willis

Saturday, March, 27, 2021

It was a completely unexpected life path diversion that began with the simple suggestion:
“Why don’t we start a little dance company?”

We had no idea, absolutely NO idea, what an intense and ridiculously challenging, yet charmed journey we were about to embark on…. It was 1983 and I had just returned from a revitalizing U of C sabbatical that had taken me to California, New York and Europe, as many of you have heard me say, “in search of like-minded jazz artists”. That specific pursuit resulted in a few disappointments, but the seven months of research and immense soul searching had generated a pretty clear idea of the direction I wanted my work to take within U of C’s Programme of Dance, Jazz Division that I had established five years earlier. Not long after my return I was approached by two talented, spirited and intrepid graduating students, Hannah Stilwell and Michèle Moss who wanted to spend the following summer dancing rather than waitressing and they presented the jazz dance company notion to me. Would I be willing to be the company’s artistic director and choreographer? My dance card was more than full with my U of C and other commitments but my travels had left me feeling somewhat disheartened because it was beginning to occur to me that after decades of erosion, jazz dance was losing its underpinnings, its essence, its soul and its vital connection to its African roots. Creating a dance company honouring its fundamental lineage seemed to be one small way of humbly addressing the situation…

We immediately launched into the heady exercise of visioning and planning, and on March 27, 1984 we became legally “official” as the 313933 Alberta Society (now there’s a catchy moniker!) and miraculously, here we are, thirty-seven dizzying years later, still moving and grooving… albeit socially distanced and wearing masks these days.

Happy Anniversary DJD – There’s a bottle of bubbly chilling in my fridge…

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