Apr 15

Decidedly Jazz returns to roots in Spontaneous Combustion

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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Blending jazz and dance, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks is exploring jazz music from the inside out in Spontaneous Combustion.
“Vicki Adams [the artistic director] really wanted to make a show that returned to the idea of the roots of jazz,” choreographer Kimberly Cooper says. The company wanted to go back to the “basic relationship between the dancer and the musician.”

Spontaneous Combustion features dancers and a live jazz band, giving it a jazz concert feel. DJD is bringing back “the amazing talents of Jackie Richardson,” as Cooper puts it. Richardson has worked with DJD in the past and this will be her third show with the company. “She is a powerhouse,” Cooper says about the vocalist. The show features Kristian Alexandrov on keyboard, Rubim de Toledo  on bass, Tyler Hornby on drums, and Richard Harding playing the saxophone. Combining a live jazz band along with the sultry moves of the company’s dancers, creates a “very casual, very intimate [setting]” explains Cooper. “You get an eye into the process of how jazz dancers improvise and relate to the musicians,” she adds.

That’s the element that has greatest appeal. Spontaneous Combustion features improvisation sections in every performance. “Adams is going to explain to the audience a taste that she gives the dancers and the band, and they will perform that task,” Cooper says when prompted about improvising dance. “We’re trying to help people understand that when you improvise to jazz music, you don’t just do whatever you want,” she states, “there are different tools that you can have, to be able to accomplish what you’re trying to do.” Ultimately, there is a method to the madness. Within the improvised sections, “the band plays the head, and then each musician gets a solo and then they play the head out,” Cooper explains. The audience is pulled into the conversation between the dancer and the musician and how movement and music can play off each other.

“There is always an element of improvisation in our shows,” Cooper replies when asked how this show is different from what the company has done in the past. “It has been a while since we’ve had a show with this many choreographers for the dancers,” she says, “[the dancers] have to be extra sharp, to remember which choreographer wants what.”
In returning to their jazz roots, DJD hopes that this show will bring in those who are intimidated by dance, because of its “casual nature,” as Cooper states. “You’re really invited into the process,” Cooper says, “it’s a great show if you’re not familiar with dance.”
That’s often the challenge for dance companies. People often feel that they won’t go see a dance show because they don’t get it. They don’t know what the movement is trying to say. “Often, we’re not trying to tell anybody anything,” Cooper explains, “you have to realize that you’re getting your own thing out of it. Any kind of art, I feel you should be greedy and see what relates to you.”

DJD’s Spontaneous Combustion is weaving elements of improvisation, movement and jazz to pull in new audiences into the world of contemporary dance. So get greedy Calgary. “You don’t really have and opportunity to not get it,” Cooper says, “We’re really helping you to understand.”

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’ presents Spontaneous Combustion  at the Grand Theatre. Performances run nightly until April 22nd. Tickets are available online. More information is available at Decidedlyjazz.com

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