Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Unveils Take the Cake Artwork on Its Building

The new animated mural at the top of the DJD building, Take the Cake, was lit up for the first time last week.

Photograph by Noel Bégin


The next time you’re driving past the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks building, look up. Or, if you’re not in a rush to get somewhere, plan to take a detour into the parking lot at 12th Avenue S.E. and 1st Street S.E. 

You’ll notice that the building moves. 

You’ll see dance students congregating in the lobby before and after class. You’ll see DJD dancers rehearsing in the building’s main studios. Take your gaze higher up to the top of the building. In the lightbox you’ll see images of dancers, all day and all night. 

This is the centre’s new art installation. It’s called "Take the Cake" and it was created by the internationally recognized artistic team Hadley+Maxwell. The piece was installed in December 2016 and the lights were turned on for the first time on March 1. 

Hadley+Maxwell’s inspiration for this piece was the Cakewalk, a dance form that was first practiced in the 1850s by African-American slaves working on plantations. The dance form was exaggerated and comedic — it was a parody of the ballroom parties the white plantation owners held. The Cakewalk preceded dance forms like jazz and ragtime. The artists used the shadows of eight DJD dancers to create the piece. Because DJD dancers were used, the movement on the mural reflects the movement actually going on inside the building. 

During the day, you’ll see a static, brightly coloured mural. At sunset though, the piece comes alive. "Take the Cake" is animated through the use of LED light choreography — it’s almost as though the figures are strutting and dancing across the top of the building. Kathi Sundstrom, the executive director of DJD, says you can stay and admire the piece after sunset for a while. “There’s a program and it lasts about 90 minutes,” says Sundstrom. “You can come, park your car and watch the whole show.” Sundstrom suggests Calgarians park in the lot across from the DJD to watch the piece. (And maybe bring along a tumbler of hot chocolate, too.)

According to Sundstrom, a continuation of the same piece will soon be installed on the main floor of the DJD behind the front desk. The piece will be tweaked because of the smaller scale inside the building. 

Sundstrom knows that everyone responds to art differently, but she hopes the new piece will be something that Calgarians react to in a positive way. “You couldn’t see inside our old building. Dance was behind closed doors,” says Sundstrom. “Now, you can see — there are dancers inside the building and outside the building. I hope the piece increases awareness of dance in Calgary and maybe gets more people through the doors and enjoying dance.” 

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, 111 12 Ave. S.E., 403-245-3533, 

photograph by Noel Bégin

Maxwell+Hadley worked with DJD artistic director Kimberley Cooper and DJD dancers to create Take the Cake. The dancers' shadows were cast against a studio wall, lit up with coloured lights. The dancers were filmed and the footage was translated into the silhouettes used in the mural. 



At night, the mural is animated and looks as though dancers are moving across the top of the building. The colours change and the entire program lasts about 90 minutes. 


photograph by karin olafson

From the parking lot across the street, you'll easily be able to see how DJD has brought dance to the street. You can see DJD dancers rehearsing inside the building and see the silhouettes "dancing" on the outside of the building. 


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