The red and white striped shirt is an iconic staple for children who've grown up reading the first Where's Waldo? book published in 1987. Now MichÃ¨le Moss, a faculty member in the dance department at University of Calgary, is drawing upon Waldo-esque imagery for a jazz piece she choreographed for Mainstage Dance.
"It's a work about the body and it's hung on this frame of Where's Waldo? -- kind of," says Moss. "We use images to engage the audience, it's not a situation where you can just sit back and let it wash over you. The piece is all about the body -- how the jazz body moves, rhythmically and in specific articulations. [The dancers] will articulate every single part of themselves, even their ulna and tibia which typically don't even have an articulation point."
Where's Waldo? might seem like a strange inspiration for a jazz dance piece, but Moss, who is also the founder of Decidely Jazz Danceworks, is on to something. Waldo's propensity for world travel mirrors the eclectic nature of jazz dance, which has become infused and bolstered by many different cultures.
"I like Waldo, he's just interesting to me," says Moss. "Certain things kept coming to me -- postcards and travelling and I just love those things. Waldo reflects that -- all the images that come to us through another culture, through language, through different kinds of music."
Mainstage Dance has become a staple at the University of Calgary over the last three decades and for obvious reason -- it represents the convergence of education and professional performance, providing participants in the U of C's dance program with the opportunity to showcase their skills. Moss' piece is the product of a course she teaches in the dance department. Since January, she was been working with her students to structure and flesh out the ideas.
"We created this together," she explains. "You're knitting ideas together, thinking about it in the fall and finding the music and finding ideas to propose. It's an educational process that allows them a view of the performance and creation. We have rehearsal -- class meets three times a week for two hours. We have adventures -- we work on some material and end up throwing it out."
The piece is educational for both Moss and her students and if you attend the Mainstage Dance show, it might be for you too -- if you can figure out where exactly Waldo is.