Fire, earth, water, …dance

By Kathy Schaerer

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks is literally on fire with their latest production, Evanescence. There’s nothing to worry about though, it’s all been approved by the fire marshal. Monsoons in Costa Rica inspired Vicki Adams Willis, the founder of DJD, to base this latest venture around the original elements–earth, wind, fire, water — and Yogic philosophy’s fifth element of space.

Kimberley Cooper, senior company dancer for DJD, says Willis was interested in the idea of elements and how quickly they disappear. Innovative piping to produce rain and advice from their fire consultant, Richard Greggson of Unreel Effects, allow the actual elements to be incorporated into Scott Reid’s simple organic props and set.

"The dancers have fire retardant clothing and a fire extinguisher within easy reach," says Cooper with a smile.

The intention of the choreography and the effects is to portray the evanescence of such elements and, ultimately, the fleeting nature of existence.

Willis originally played with the idea of basing the theme of this production around the integral relationship between the music and the dancer, and this idea remains with the choice of DJD veteran musical director Kristian Alexandrov. Cooper is quick to praise the accomplished 25-year-old’s abilities.

"He’s kind of young… but he has some amazing music," she says.

Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Alexandrov toured Europe extensively with various ensembles before moving to Canada and joining the Jazz Studies program at the U of C. Some of Evanescence’s music can be found on his recently released CD, Funked Up Jazz.

Cooper’s enthusiasm is infectious for guest choreographer Joe Laughlin, guest dancer in DJD’s production of No Small Feets.

"I’m glad we finally got a chance to work with him," she says. "He can make a beautiful ballet and he’s not even a ballet dancer. He blurs boundaries."

Cooper contributed choreography originally seen in the finale of DJD’s last production, Whitehorn. Other choreographers include DJD co-founder Michele Moss and, of course, the inspired Vicki Willis herself.

"It seems like we’ve been working on it for such a long time, it’s hard to believe we’re opening already,"exclaims Cooper. "It’s been a really good process."

Evanescence will be performed June 6-18 at the Max Bell Theatre.

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