Vicki St.Denys, MA is Associate Chair at the School of Performance and has served as the Director of the Dance Program since 2014. She joined Ryerson in 1991 and was the resident choreographer for well over a decade. A leader in the field of jazz dance, Vicki’s research, choreography and teaching are grounded in its roots and relationship to jazz music.
Vicki has toured nationally and internationally as a performer, teacher and choreographer for numerous companies and with a broad array of productions. Her choreography has been featured on television, film, theatre, opera and motion capture projects. From 2000-2007, Vicki was a member of the dance faculty at the prestigious The Banff Centre for the Arts, she was subsequently the choreographer for the Opera as Theatre Program and for the Citadel Theatre program.
She has served as an assessor for the Canada Council for the Arts/Dance Division, Fall for Dance North’s (FFDN), International Presenters Program Artistic Advisory Committee, and the World Dance Alliance.
Since her appointment as Director of the Dance Program, Vicki has dedicated herself to increasing the profile of the program by expanding the curriculum and training, including more Canadian and international guest artists and by partnering with major arts organizations such as FFDN. Through her efforts, Ryerson dancers have shared the stage with world renowned dance companies at the FFDN Festival at Meridian Hall and taken part in the worldwide Cunningham centennial celebrations - demonstrating that Ryerson is home to Canada’s leading BFA dance program.
Vicki is a recipient of the Dean’s Teaching Award for 2020.
- History & roots of Jazz Dance
- Jazz music - its relationship to jazz dance
- Teaching practices related to jazz dance: Vernacular/Latin/Neo-Jazz/Rhythm-Generated
- Afro Cuban Dance and Drum
- Decolonizing dance
(2019) Brubeck, Choreographer, Ryerson Dances, Ryerson Theatre, Toronto, ON
(2018) Red, Hot and Cool, Welcome to Birdland, Choreographer-Co-creator/ Principal Investigator Funded by FCAD Creative Grant. Hydra and Poros Greece, Toronto, ON
(2018) PULSE…version blue, DanceOntario Weekend 18, Fleck Dance Theatre, Toronto, ON
(2017) PULSE…version blue, Choreographer, Ryerson Dances 2017, Ryerson Theatre, Toronto, ON
(2015-2016) Choreo: The Art of Dance, A la Carte Video Productions, Consultant, Documentary Film Screening, Toronto, ON
(2014) Mingus: Reminiscing in Tempo, Ryerson Dances, Ryerson Theatre Toronto, On
(2013-2014) Is That It?, Commission for Older and Reckless, Choreographer and Performer, (World Premiere) Toronto, ON
(2014) Brubeck, Dance Ontario, Lifetime Achievement Gala 2014, Fleck Dance Theatre, Toronto, ON
(Co-Author/Co-Contributor), Evolving and Involving in Jazz: Discussing the Prime Tenets of Jazz Dance in Relationship to Current Practices to the Form as a Way Ignite Scholarly Understanding. Panel Presentation. Evolve + Involve: Dance as a Moving Question…World Dance Alliance – Americas, Vancouver, BC, July 29 – August 4, 2013
(Co-Author/Co-Contributor), Jazzing Culture/Culturing Jazz. Collaboration: Intersections, Negotiations, Mediations in the Worlds of Dance”, Canadian Society for Dance Studies Conference in Montréal, 2012
(Co-Author), Negotiation, Alliance and Interchange: A Formula for Training Dance Artist. Collaboration: Intersections, Negotiations, Mediations in the Worlds of Dance”, Canadian Society for Dance Studies Conference in Montréal, 2012
Death of Jazz: Metamorphosis and Reconciliation, Dancing Community in Canada: Ideas, Practices, Outcomes - Society for Canadian Dance Studies, 2009
Red, Hot and Cool: Welcome to Birdland: Performed by a group of Ryerson dancers and actors, this production joined dance with live and recorded music, poetry and spoken word in a full-length performance that examined and represented various eras of jazz music and dance. The first stage of this creative research/activity was the development of a script, song list, images (March – May 2018) followed by choreography and direction, which were developed, rehearsed and performed in Hydra, Greece (June/July 2018) as part of the Hydra International Arts Festival.
This contemporary production offered a history of jazz, celebrating the some of the influences such as African, Latin, American as well as the socio-political elements that guided and shaped the cultural identity of this form. Looking at some of the giants of jazz music and extraordinary moments in the history including The Palladium and The Savoy Ballroom in NYC, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald - ‘cool” and “bebop” jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, and Latin Jazz artists such as Tito Puente, this performance aimed to historicize the progression of music and form; from African its roots, to Lindy Hop, to the ‘rent parties’ of Harlem and beyond.
Ongoing Artistic Goals and Objectives
To confront stereotypes of what is – and what is not – Jazz dance; and to explore Jazz through frames of culture, music, race.
My main artistic goals were to address issues of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what is (and is not) jazz dance and why it remains vitally important within the dance world today. My work is situated within the parameters and definitions of jazz, with a clear focus on bringing about a sustainable and more visible presence of the art form. As an established professional choreographer, all of my creative work relates back to this focus.
To address knowledge gaps pertaining to Jazz.
The question of jazz music and dance and their influence within and between cultures is of great interest to me. By exploring the complexity of jazz dance, music and the socio-political movements, it will help us to identify where this dance form “resides” today. I believe new knowledge can be gained by both historicizing and contemporizing jazz.
This understanding will assist the dance community (including critics of the form) in understanding and valuing the genre’s capability for depth (artistically, culturally, musically, emotionally), along with its accessibility and ability to entertain. Understanding and sharing its rich history is, in my opinion, crucial to its survival.
To incorporate live music into performance through the creation of a new version of this production. 1959 was a pivotal year in the evolution of jazz. The albums released that year that changed jazz forever were Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck "Time Out", Charles Mingus "Ah Um" and Ornette Coleman “The Shape of Jazz to Come”.