Back by popular demand
With the words “wow” and “flutter” in the title of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’ 2008 show, people can be forgiven if they don’t immediately think of turntables or variations of speed, sound and frequency distortion. Choreographed to 75 minutes of music that is definitely not jazz, choreographer Kimberley Cooper has remounted wowandflutter for a cross-Canada tour.
“I hesitate to call this show ‘jazz,’ because I think if you’re going to call it jazz it has to be to jazz music,” Cooper explains while on break from rehearsals. And while the show’s composer and DJ Amon Tobin may have sampled jazz drum breaks early in his career, the mix he created for Cooper’s project is comprised of original samples, a particular bass frequency and sound distortions, allowing the dancers to bring the jazz element to the show.
Because Cooper feels encouraged in her role to push boundaries and innovate, she emphasizes that the movement comes from the root forms of jazz: “There’s a lot of West African and a lot of Afro-Cuban movement, although it’s totally taken out of context.”
As she explains the movement in one piece of the show entitled Kitchen Sink, where the dancers imagine themselves to be fish, she pushes back her chair and begins to demonstrate how she took one West African step and modified it for the piece.
“In Kitchen Sink, the fish, as we think of ourselves, they’re doing a West African step that normally would be this,” says Cooper as she moves her hips with her knees bent, keeping her body low to the ground, her arms moving to an imagined beat. “Which relates to jazz – ” her knees straighten slightly, her core moving upwards – “but then they’re fish so it’s different,” she finishes, her arms becoming more fluid, her core keeping with the movement she began with.
While Cooper has used Tobin’s music before, it wasn’t until she began the project did she meet him while he was living in Montreal. Together, Tobin and Cooper went through what she described as “millions” of hours of his music over the course of seven albums.
To explain Tobin’s music and also why she wanted to use it, she brings up the track “Kitchen Sink,” from the album Foley’s Room.
“All of the sounds he uses are from him dropping things in his bathtub and recording it,” Cooper explains. “He turns that into a rhythm and then he layers and layers on top of it. He takes all these wild sounds that he samples and turns (them) into music. I think he’s super genius.”
But only talking about one album wouldn’t give a new listener the scope of his work. At one point she asked him how he would classify his music: “He said, ‘I avoid that question at all times.’ ”
The intensity of the music is matched by the physicality required of the dancers for this show. In January 2008, when the show was first performed, Cooper did not join the dancers on stage. This time around, she replaces artistic assistant Sarisa Figueroa de Toledo, who is on maternity leave. Another dancer replaces an original who is also on maternity leave, and with a new member of the company the show now has three male dancers instead of two. In addition to the new faces, Cooper “trimmed the fat,” cutting it down from 84 minutes and two acts to 75 minutes and one act.
“I’ve taken out 10 minutes, 30 seconds here and 40 seconds there, not really losing the integrity of the piece,” Cooper said. “It’s very physical and, because there are a lot of break beats, the music is very intense, and there is a lot of extremely heavy bass that’s really kind of hitting you through the show.”
Cooper and the company perform the show for two nights only in Calgary on October 2 and 3 at the GRAND before heading off to Halifax. The tour spans six weeks and presents a first for the company.
“This is the first time we are touring without live music, and it’s the first time we’re touring with a big truck.” Cooper worries about taking everything with them on the plane, but she concedes it’s exciting.
Tickets are on sale now at www.decidedlyjazz.com.