2019 is here!

Since 2019 is well underway, Natasha Powell shares with us some exciting new projects on the horizon for us…

Photo by Tamara Romanchuk.

Photo by Tamara Romanchuk.

Happy (belated) new year to everyone! After a wildly successful 2018 for us here at Holla Jazz, December was taken as much needed time to celebrate, reflect, and catch up on some rest! With 2019 well underway I am so happy to share some projects and workshops to get us moving in this new year:

Jazzy Grooves Dance Workshop Series in March

Many people have asked when and where they can learn the Holla Jazz dance style and here it is. This is a special workshops series taking place over a 4-week period where we will focus on the fundamentals of jazz dancing and other social dances to help you find YOUR own personal groove and make breakthroughs in your dancing. Tell your friends and come out and dance with us! Click here for more info and to sign up!

Dances for Trane Project

In 2017 I viewed the documentary Chasing Trane - a documentary about the life of jazz musician John Coltrane as part of the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. An artist who acclaimed much success, I was inspired by the incredible collection of transcending music he created in his short life. This film lead me to do further research on Coltrane’s approach to music, and I am super excited to be heading into the studio to begin working on our second major dance production inspired by the music of Coltrane. We are grateful for production and creation support for this major project from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council.

There will be opportunities to get a sneak peek at the making of this work, so stayed tuned for details on open rehearsals and showings!

Stay warm and keep dancing! xo…

FLOOR'D Wins at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards

We are extremely excited to share that the dancers received the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in the Dance Division, for their performance of FLOOR'D! These artists put everything they had into this project and we are super proud of them and grateful for this recognition. The 2018 Dora Mavor Moore Awards took place at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto. Congratulations to all of this year's nominees and recipients!


Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominations for FLOOR'D!

We are extremely excited to share that our first production, FLOOR'D has been nominated for 4 Dora Mavor Moore Awards in the Dance Division:

  • Outstanding Production
  • Outstanding Performance - Ensemble
  • Outstanding Choreography (Natasha Powell)
  • Outstanding Lighting Design (Noah Feaver) 

The Dora Mavor Moore Awards are presented annually, honouring theatre, dance, opera productions in Toronto. We are extremely honoured to be recognized alongside some of the cities major performance creators. The awards ceremony takes place on June 25, 2018 at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, where the winners will be announced.

Congratulations to all the nominees! Read more about the Dora Mavor Awards here.

Photo by Tamara Romanchuk. The ensemble performing  FLOOR'D .

Photo by Tamara Romanchuk. The ensemble performing FLOOR'D.

Get to Know the FLOOR'D Dancers

FLOOR'D is on stage Apr. 25–28 at Winchester Street Theatre.

Natasha Powell Headshot-300.jpg

Natasha Powell is the founding artistic director of Holla Jazz. She has made numerous appearances on film, television and stage, including the: HBO Series The L Word; Nickelodeon movie Spectacular!; and feature film Centre Stage 2. She was the co-director of Catalyst Dance Company and is the co-creator of the acclaimed dance-theatre project, Gimme One Riddim: A Tribute to Ska. After a New York residency period researching vernacular jazz, Natasha created Holla Jazz, where all jazz dances, hip hop, and house intersect to reinvigorate the idea of freedom and expressing one’s own identity through the spirit of jazz. 

Ashley Perez - Headshot-300.jpg

Ashley "Colours" Perez, is a dancer, choreographer and entrepreneur. Training in funk styles and hip hop, she later specialized in voguing, waacking and house. Ashley was a resident choreographer and performer with the artist collective House of Dangerkat, developing works that allowed her to travel and perform in places such as New York, London and Paris. Along with Emily Law, Ashley is now the Co-Artistic Director of Mix Mix Dance Collective with whom she has co-created two full-length works and represented Canada at the 2017 Jeux de la Francophonie in Abidjan.

Caroline Fraser - Headshot-300.jpg

Caroline “Lady C” Fraser is known in the international street dance scene for her versatility and multi-disciplinary dance style. She has trained in popping, locking, house, breaking, and hip hop since 2003, and her classical background gives her a deeply rooted understanding of movement and performance that lends to her unique quality as a dancer. Lady C has won many titles in the battle and competition scene and was the 2015 recipient of the Dora Award for Best Female Solo Performance, as well as the Gadfly Award for Dancer of the Year in Canada. 

Hollywood Jade - Headshot-300.jpg

Hollywood Jade has worked in the performing arts for almost two decades. He began his journey as a dancer, supporting many artists on stage and screen including Nelly Furtado, Divine Brown and Rihanna. Hollywood has also been a featured dancer/actor in several films including Save The Last Dance 2, Camp Rock 2, Make Your Move, and the blockbuster Hairspray. As a choreographer, he has secured the positions of Artistic Director and Choreographer to Canada's Queen of R&B - Jully Black, and Entertainment and Artistic Director for Artxperiential Projects and The Black Diamond Ball. 

Miha Matevzic - Headshot-300.jpg

Miha Matevzic has over 15 years of professional dance experience in jazz, hip hop, house, locking. While working in London, England in 2010, he worked with artists such as Rihanna and Mariah Carey, and performed in the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies. In 2014, Miha moved to Toronto, and has danced for the Much Music Video Awards and Junos, performed at Breakin’ Convention, and was also part of Gadfly’s full-length production of ‘Klorofyl’ in 2017/18.  In 2016, Miha was a company member of Calgary’s Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

Raoul Wilke - Headshot-300.png

Raoul Wilke’s extensive training in house, hip hop and vernacular jazz has lead him to perform for years with professional companies The Moon Runners, Gadfly Dance and Holla Jazz. He also continues to work on film, choreograph his own work, and establish a name for himself internationally through battle competitions. Raoul continues to travel and study these dance forms to better understand their historical and contemporary contexts, and he aims to share his love of dance by creating a safe space where movement is the primary voice.

Sarah Tumaliuan - Headshot-300.jpg

Sarah Tumaliuan has a varied arsenal of movement languages, including house, hip hop, and vernacular jazz. She has worked with dance companies such as Mix Mix Dance Collective, Gadfly Dance Company, Alias Dance Projects, and Catalyst Dance Company. She is the co-founder of Parks N' Wreck, a street dance organization dedicated to getting people outside to celebrate music and street dance. She finds delight in sharing dance with others to enhance well-being, build confidence, and explore creativity, leading to her work in community arts and her pursuit of a master’s degree in Public Health. 

Tereka Tyler-Davis - Headshot-300.jpg

Tereka Tyler-Davis is an emerging performing artist who has spent four seasons with Kashedance, and worked with various contemporary, musical theatre and burlesque artists, including Jose Carret (DanzaCorpus), Arsenio Andrade (Kashedance), Ronald Taylor (Ronald Taylor Dance), Adrianna Yanuziello (Dance Migration) Victoria MataSoledad (MataDanze Collective), Jasmyn Fyffe, Wind in the Leaves Collective, and Expect Theatre. Her performance highlights include Shades (Esie Mensah), Tribute to Harry Belafonte (Melissa Noventa), White Light Follies, Portrait of a Scandal (High Society Cabaret), Sister Act (at Lower Ossington Theatre), and Child Soldier (Shameka Blake’s Dance Ontario commission). 

FLOOR'D Choreographer Statement

From Natasha Powell, Creative Lead:

Our first full-length production, FLOOR'D, draws inspiration from the book Jookin: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture, written by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon. Her book details three primary institutions that allowed for the development of dancing among African-Americans: 1) Dancing Under the Lash, 2) Shoddy Confines: The Jook Continuum, and 3) Upper Shadies and Urban Politics. Section two of the book - Shoddy Confines: The Jook Continuum - is the institution that could be found exclusively in black communities and operated without assistance from public officials. The jook was the first institution after Emancipation that was rooted in West-African traditions, and this new space gave rise to and rejuvenated many cultural practices. The new work we are creating is inspired by this section of the book.

Dancers Sarah Tumaliuan and Hollywood Jade. Credit: Tamara Romanchuk.

Dancers Sarah Tumaliuan and Hollywood Jade. Credit: Tamara Romanchuk.

FLOOR'D is a journey that will examine the dynamics, relationships and interactions of dancing bodies within the arena of jook houses; how these bodies compose music (jazz and the blues); and what other factors influenced the movement in these spaces. In jook joints, black dance culture crystallized into exportable forms, providing black lower and working classes with their primary public arena for dance. Dances in the jook included the Charleston, the shimmy, the snake hips, the funky butt, the twist, the slow drag, the black bottom, the fish tail, and the grind. FLOOR’D seeks to replicate the jook joint energy by incorporating seven exciting dance artists accompanied by seven musicians playing on brass, upright bass, drums, and piano.

Ultimately, we want to create work that inspires change in the way jazz dance is now perceived. Today, many people view jazz dance as a form that blends Eurocentric styles - this owes little to jazz and less to jazz rhythms. Jazz dancing is done to jazz rhythms and stresses two very important characteristics that can be traced to black dance traditions: propulsive rhythms and improvisation; elements that are also found in the street dance forms of today. Through FLOOR'D, we want to get the broader dance community and public familiar with the original jazz: Dancing that is propulsive, improvised, contemporary, and culturally relevant.

Join us for FLOOR’D at the Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto, April 25-28, 2018 at 8:00 PM!

Dancers Miha Matevzic and Caroline "Lady C" Fraser. Credit: Tamara Romanchuk.

Dancers Miha Matevzic and Caroline "Lady C" Fraser. Credit: Tamara Romanchuk.

Holla Jazz: An Introduction

Dancers: Caroline "Lady C" Fraser, Miha Matevzic, Raoul Wilke, and Natasha Powell.  Photo by ES Cheah Photography.

Dancers: Caroline "Lady C" Fraser, Miha Matevzic, Raoul Wilke, and Natasha Powell.

Photo by ES Cheah Photography.

From our Artistic Director, Natasha Powell:

I have been a professional dance artist for 15 years. While I have training in many different dance styles, for several years I was mainly focused on working in the hip hop medium. When I was living and working in Vancouver in 2007, I met Moncell Durden (aka iLL Kozby) from the MOP TOP Crew.  He is the producer/director of the documentary Everything Remains Raw, which highlights the evolution and similarities of socials dances coming from Black and Latin communities in the United States. I had always been interested in the history of Black social dances, so the film resonated deeply with me.

In 2011, I tore the meniscus in my left knee during a rehearsal. Though I was discouraged at that time, the injury rehabilitation period provided me with time to re-evaluate what was important to me as a dance artist. So as frustrating as this injury was, it opened an exciting new chapter in my creative life.

I had surgery to repair the meniscus in 2012, which meant that I was out of commission for quite a few months. During this period, I decided to delve into writing my artist statement for the first time. I started writing about what influences me as an artist, and the first thing that came to me was family. House parties and barbecues were a large part of my upbringing, and I had an older brother and sister who were growing up in the height of the hip hop era.  Watching them dance and how they interacted with each other always resonated with me. Around this time, Moncell was in Toronto and was showing further work that he had done on the documentary. Realizing that social dances were at the forefront of my work, it was then that my interest in vernacular jazz dance was ignited. I wanted to learn more about why the “jazz” dance that I was taught as a youth had no connection to its original roots.

In 2013, I received grants from the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts for a residency in New York to study the roots of jazz dance and its connection to hip hop culture. Moncell was my mentor, and I had other incredible teachers while there: Margaret Batiuchok (lindy hop); and Nathan Bugh (jazz). Not only did I dance, but I read - extensively.  As a result, I realized that I wanted to share the spirit of jazz and its connection to hip hop culture with others. While there are a number of places to go swing dancing in my city, I wanted to form a professional company in Toronto that would present, celebrate and honour the spirit of jazz dance and the styles of dance to which it has given birth (hip hop, house, etc.) This represented the formation of Holla Jazz.

My hope is that through Holla Jazz, we can continue to spread the guiding principles of jazz, and perhaps create some new ones.


It's About Time!

Back at the end of January I attended one of the most important dance events in my career thus far, particularly as a black Canadian dance artist. Artist Seika Boye, PhD, has curated a remarkable exhibit at Dance Collection Danse  - It’s About Time, Dancing Black in Canada 1900 - 1970.

My first exposure to professional, black dancing bodies was when my mother took my 9 year-old self to see Dance Theatre of Harlem at what was then the O’Keefe Centre (now known as the Sony Centre for the Arts). I had never really seen black dancing bodies doing what they did at that time, and to see people that looked like me on the big stage was the inspiration for me to become a professional dancer.

My mom enrolled me in dance shortly thereafter. She wanted me to go to the Dennis Moore School of Dance in Scarborough - the biggest school in the GTA for young black children to learn dance, but we were moving to Ajax at that time and the distance was too far to travel to. Years later when I started working professionally, I always wondered what happened to the Dennis Moore school and what would have been different had I attended? Boye’s exhibit brought back a ton of memories about starting my journey with dance but also sparked my curiosity about the black artists that laid the playing field for me and many artists of colour. Who would have known there was a bumpin’ jazz and swing scene in Vancouver, BC? Many of the dance forms that I practice originated in the U.S., but there is a Canadian legacy in these forms that Seika has generously shared. Imagine a time in Toronto where blacks could not enter some of the historic clubs that we now can freely walk into without question. A price was paid for us to do this, and for that I am forever grateful.

I shed tears at this exhibit. Overwhelmed with new information, answered questions, and a sense of pride. This exhibit has sparked a new meaning for me and my work with Holla Jazz especially as we work on our first production, FLOOR’D. I encourage everyone see this exhibit when they get the chance and would love to chat further with you when you do! <3


To Jazz or Not To Jazz: Frequently Asked Questions About Vernacular Jazz Classes

To Jazz or Not To Jazz: Frequently Asked Questions About Vernacular Jazz Classes

As we've been running workshops and classes there are a number of people that want to come, but hesitate for a number of reasons that we hope we have the answers to.  Here are some of the questions or concerns that have come up...