By Kara Martens
Decidedly Jazz Danceworks has taken a new direction this season with the addition of Whitehorn. The 16 pieces program was entirely created by new and emerging choreographers, displaying diversity and originality.
One of the forces behind the show is Kimberly Cooper. A long time dancer with the company, Cooper takes on the role of Artistic Director and choreographer for Whitehorn. She started with DJD at the age of 18, and the 11 seasons that followed earned her the nickname "the vet" and more career highlights than she can name.
Cooper started dancing at the age of four, when her parents enrolled her in ballet classes.
"I always sort of danced around the house so people suggested to my parents that I take dance lessons," says Cooper. Ballet quickly led to jazz lessons.
"I knew I liked to dance and I liked ballet but it was too restrictive. I saw a jazz show, at the university, and I thought it would be more fun."
From there, Cooper’s ambition led her to DJD Company.
"It is the only jazz dance company, maybe in the world, definitely in Canada."
The dancers of DJD were given the opportunity to test their choreography skills and their stamina in preparation for Whitehorn.
"It is a nice change but people are tired," says Cooper.
Of the 10 dancers in the program seven also choreographed. With each dancer in a number of pieces, the demand on time and energy is high.
The dancers, some with very limited choreography experience, have created a mix of many styles and inspirations. The production includes tango, swing, Latin and East Indian movements, with music ranging from a Miles Davis suite to a piece by local group Urban Tribe.
The performance is more experimental than the average DJD, but is also down-scaled, with a budget and venue, but Cooper is not complaining.
"There are other things in Calgary for emerging choreographers… this is different because we can do it during company hours."
Cooper also contributed a few pieces to the two-hour show. One piece, a variation on the Rhumba set to music from the Buena Vista Social Club, received inspiration form an unexpected source.
"We have a guest artist from Cuba," explains Cooper. "I had an idea for a piece based on Rumba and then I got really excited when I heard he was coming."
The Latin element is enhanced by a piece choreographed by the guest artist based on the Cuban dance Casino–the root of Salsa.
Whitehorn runs Feb. 3-6 at the Uptown theatre.