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Review

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’ Drive-In Show Is an Innovative Pandemic Performance

There is something in the details closes tonight By Jenna Shummoogum
  • Dance artists in Decidedly Jazz Danceworks' There is something in the details / Photo courtesy of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks

Editor’s Note: This version has been updated from the original, which stated that the opening piece was set to Pink Dragon by Parov Stela.

There is something in the details runs tonight at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at 111 12th Ave. SE in Calgary.

***

It has been a year since I’ve seen an in-person dance performance, and I thought it would be at least another six months. I was wrong. Decidedly Jazz Danceworks in Calgary is presenting There is something in the details, a live, socially distant dance performance. The performers don masks and perform to a drive-in audience. The ensemble of dancers includes Scott Augustine, Cassandra Bowerman, Sabrina Comanescu, Jason Owin F. Galeos, Catherine Hayward, Kaja Irwin and Natasha Korney. The production is a nod to the dedication that artists have towards their ability to create and innovate.

The performance takes place through the windows of the company’s building, so the sightlines are always clear. Music and voice-overs stream through a radio frequency that you can access in your car. Every vehicle is parked on an angle so that each cohort can have the best sightlines, and instead of applause, people honk their horns in appreciation. This is pandemic performance.

The production opens with a voice-over giving a variety of sayings in French and English and talking about how proximity is ours. The opening piece is set to Take Four by the Juju Orchestra. The main dancer, costumed in horns and using a teddy bear as a prop, moves in front of a light in the far-right corner of the building. The movement is energetic, and the dancer plays with the coloured shadows filling the window. The lighting also gives the illusion of candles flickering around the dancers. Overall, the movement has a bit of swing to it and feels playful.

The performance then moves into choreography to Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) by Hot 8 Brass Band. This piece features a duet of shadows, highlighted in red light. The company uses open windows where you can see the dancers clearly and windows where the dancers artistically use their shadows.

As the performance moves through different numbers, more dancers are featured in what looks from far away like skeleton Halloween costumes. But you can tell they are all masks, which speaks to the abilities of these talented artists. They use props (arrows and spotlights) within unison choreography, and occasionally the movement is unique to each dancer. They use shadows to turn their limbs into what looks like a face – this whole piece is upbeat and playful.

Each piece is energetic with exaggerated movements so that audience members can see it from across the street. The second-last piece features a dancer who performs with a microphone, the movement playing within shadow and light.

The finale is choreographed to Afro Drum and Bass by Glyn Bush and features the entire ensemble. You can tell even from a distance how much jazz is infused into the movements, but it’s hard to see the strength and subtlety of the choreography from so far away.

Decidedly Jazz Dancework’s production of There is something in the details is truly innovative, energetic and a lot of fun. Bring some snacks and beverages, and it’s a great way to spend this evening. It will also tide us over until we can see the beauty of the body in motion, up-close-and-personal.

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