By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — Jazz is coming out from behind closed doors thanks to the construction of the impressive Decidedly Jazz Dance Centre in the heart of the New West. Ten years in the making, the cutting-edge facility will provide a much-needed growing room for the professional company and dance school, which has been in its current home since 1993. Designed by architect Janice Liebe of the DIALOG design firm and built by CANA Construction, the new structure embodies the kinetic movement of a dancer’s body with its graceful application of glass and steel. While a versatile modern theatre and seven well-appointed dance studios rank highest amongst the new institute’s assets, the abundance of natural light and flowing floor plan are sure to infuse the environment with positive energy.
“It’s a spectacular facility. It’s not just for us, we feel that it’s really a space for Calgary,” says DJD’s artistic director, Kimberley Cooper. “It’s also just such a beautiful, vibrant, glass-filled open place that I think it will add to the landscape of Calgary. You’ll be able to look in and see dancing all the time, which is something we don’t see that often. The beacon at the top of the building is a 10-metre penthouse that’s kind of like a light-box and we’ve just been working with some artist to create a public art piece that’s going to be in there. That will really draw your eye to the building as well. The artists’ names are Hadley+Maxwell. Without giving too much away, they are big on the Canadian art scene and they were here taking images for a beautiful concept that will let people know that is dancing going on in that building.”
Located within the new 12-storey Kahanoff Centre on Centre Street and 12th Avenue SE, the accessible space offers a 327 sq. m dance studio, a comfortable 232 sq. m community living room, multiple smaller dance studios (to be available for booking) and will additionally provide storage for the Company’s wardrobes, dressing rooms, media room, library, box office and administrative offices. A home that has been custom-fit to accommodate the present and future needs of an organization that anticipates great things to come. To accomplish this lifetime goal, DJD worked closely numerous supporters including the philanthropic Kahanoff Foundation, who rents office space to charitable organizations at affordable rates. Construction of the Decidedly Jazz Dance Centre within the context of the burgeoning complex, located at Centre Street and 12th Avenue S.E., means that the first five floors of the new building are inhabited by Decidedly Jazz with the six floors above them being occupied by DJD’s co-residents the Calgary Foundation.
“This building has been a long time coming,” says Cooper. “As the economy has risen and fallen a couple times it’s taken a lot longer than we thought it would. So, there have been many incarnations of what it has now turned out to be. We’ve had really great partners all around. We have had a lot of support from the government and the Kahanoff Foundation, individual donors. You can name a seat in the theatre for $1,000 or donate more and have the building named after you. Everyone from millionaires to the dancer alumnus who are pulling funds together to buy a couple of seats. There are lots of ways you can claim your space within the Centre, which I think is really cool!”
As a member of Calgary’s dance community and DJD’s resident choreographer, Cooper shares her company’s passion for innovation. Aiming to demonstrate that the new facility will consist of more than sprung floors and wires, she is busy rehearsing the first work to be presented in the Centre’s crown jewel studio theatre. Cooper’s latest choreographic work, New Universe, featuring nine dancers and five live musicians performing the music of NYC jazz legend William Parker, is sure to leave a lasting impression as it premieres at the Decidely Jazz Dance Centre’s Opening Gala on May 27th.
“For me, what I’m really looking forward to is being able to create in the space that the work will be performed in, because that is so rare in the dance world. It’s pretty spectacular and that’s where the company will rehearse every day,” says Cooper. “The nice thing about being in this smaller space is that we can run for longer and that’s better for everybody. The artists get to do it more, the work gets stronger, the word of mouth can travel throughout the city and that’s our best ticket seller. I think that all of those things will help to make us more successful.”
A one-of-a-kind place of business that offers a unique forum and launchpad for the performing arts, DJD’s headquarters will undoubtedly make it a cultural focal point as Calgary progresses through a ribbon-cutting Year of Music. Cause for celebration on many fronts, the completion of this new facility marks not only the realization of a dream, but denotes the value that citizens continue to attribute to the arts and the ways in which artistic disciplines continue to benefit the community at large.
“We’ve been talking to board for Fluid Festival, we’ve been talking to One Yellow Rabbit, we’ve been talking to the Old Trouts, and Sled Island has approached us about utilizing our new spaces. People have already asked to have a wedding on our main floor because it’s gorgeous. And, really, we want to be an arts hub,” Cooper confirms. “Everybody’s excited about it, because it has the ability to change the cultural landscape in Calgary. And we’ve have great neighbours; the National Music Centre and Arts Commons are only a few blocks away. We feel like Calgary is building a new arts district right now and it’s really nice to be a part of that.”
DJD’s Opening Weekend Gala that shows off their new studio and performance space takes place May 27 and 28. Then New Universe, DJD’s new work choreographed by Kim Cooper featuring original music composed by New York jazz composer William Parker, who will also lead the live band during performances, runs until June 12.AB, Alberta, dance, Decidedly Jazz Dance Centre, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks