A Summer Update from DJD’s Artistic Director Kimberley Cooper:

We always say we are of but a handful of dance folk with jazz dance as a mandate, this summer we were fortunate in that we got to meet some more of the other people in that handful.
 In July, Jamie Freeman Cormack, Director of our Professional Training Program, Joanne Baker, our Dance School Principal/Arts-In-Education Co-ordinator and I attended the National Dance Educators Organization (NDEO) conference in Newport, Rhode Island at Salve Regina University.  Jamie and I went a few days early to set a piece of DJD repertoire on a handful of dance students from the University.  Joanne and many others joined us a few days later for the conference.

We spent the next three days, dancing, talking, thinking, about this complicated, political, misunderstood,under represented form called jazz dance.  There were many great moments of connection and reflection, hard questions and deep thoughts.  One of the many highlights was the screening of an 18-minute teaser for a new documentary that will be released in 2020, it’s called Transmission, Roots to Branches, and it is about jazz dance.  The film crew came to Calgary to shoot footage of the company last fall and it was thrilling to see us on the big screen!

Most of the conference attendees were jazz teachers at Universities and Colleges, a few were affiliated with companies, or had been earlier in their careers and those companies no longer exist. I feel we met collaborators, co-conspirators, family. We made many new friends and connected with old ones too.
The conference closed the day the notorious Newport Jazz Festival opened, we stayed for the weekend and got to see some of our favourite musicians play incredible concerts, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Kamasi Washington, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, too many to mention. It was a very rich ten days.

While we were away, Shayne Johnson, DJD Company Dancer, participated in a conference about biomechanics. He performed an improvised tap dance wearing a motion capture suit that also responded to his movements with sound. The suit allowed his avatar to be projected on a screen behind him inreal time and the suit reacted to his movement, allowing him to create a score for himself, not only with his tap shoes but his whole body. This was an international biomechanics conference, the focus of the performance was to:

  • demonstrate applications of interactive media (wearable technology) in understanding movement mechanics
  • wow (and educate) the audience on what dancers do, highlighting similarities and differences to athlete populations

This work was led by Teal Darkenwald who is a dance professor from a University in Carolina.  If Teal hadn’t been here for the conference, she would have been with us in Rhode Island at the NDEO conference as she teaches jazz as well as modern dance.


Shayne was his usual brilliant self and his performance was a great success!



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