A classic love story, retold

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks reinvents Shakespeare

ATrudie Lee - Romeo and Juliet square filter 6x6 (1)Decidedly Jazz Danceworks (DJD) has reimagined William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into an accessible and modernized production with jazz dance and pick-up lines.

The production, Juliet & Romeo, will run from Jan. 18 to 28 at the DJD Dance Centre in Calgary as part of One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo.

“I think it’s an untraditional look at the play,” said Kimberly Cooper, the artistic director and choreographer of Juliet & Romeo. “It’s an easy introduction.”

Juliet & Romeo will feature DJD’s nine-member dance company, a live four-piece band and narration by Cody Bowles. 

Bowles has adapted most of the original text and will be performing all of the speaking parts, while the dancers have no dialogue.

In addition, the order of events has been changed and some scenes altered, such as the masquerade ball where Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time.

“For a part of it, Cory is just going to say pick-up lines,” Cooper said.

Bowles is best known as Cory on Trailer Park Boys. He has also recently finished production on Black Cops, a film, that he wrote and directed.

“He’s such a multitalented artist,” Cooper said.

The title of the production was flipped around to have Juliet’s name first so people would know how this isn’t going to be a typical Shakespeare production.

Cooper said the character who fascinated her the most in the original play was Juliet, because of all the characters, Juliet goes through the most change.

“She becomes a woman in three days.

“I hope audiences will come in expecting something different.”

During the ‘80s, much of jazz dance was no longer accompanied or inspired by jazz music, causing it to be less grounded, lose rhythmic sophistication and have less of a focus on individual expression.

DJD’s primary purpose is to bring the roots of jazz dance back, incorporating it with jazz music.

DJD not only stages original productions, but also runs a community dance school and a professional
training program.

Cooper immediately joined DJD as a dancer after graduating from high school, and later became their artistic director in 2013.

She has directed and choreographed 14 productions since 2000.

Juliet and Romeo is the first production to be made completely inside DJD’s new building. All previous productions hosted in the building had been mapped out elsewhere.

“This is a first time we’ve made a show in our own space.”

Rehearsals for Juliet & Romeo began at the start of September, but Cooper said she had “the seed of the idea” for several years now to adapt Shakespeare for jazz dance.

“It’s really a play about love and violence.”

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