University of Calgary

Michele Moss

  • Associate Professor
  • +1 (403) 220-4742

Research Interests

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Michèle Moss is a dancer, choreographer, researcher and educator. She is a co-founder of DJD (Decidedly Jazz Danceworks) 1984 through to 1999. She continues to collaborate with DJD on many teaching projects, most recent choreography presented in 2008 and most recent performance, the 30th anniversary concert, in 2014. She finds great pleasure in exploring the nature of jazz, through performance-creation and arts-based educational research. She enjoys a diverse career in dance; at this mid-point she is celebrating 15 years of academic service and scholarship. Her professional training has her seek out many experiences including swing, salsa, house dance as well as educational and current training practices to enhance her studio practice. Her research mostly takes the form of creation projects but also includes textual projects, recently co-authoring chapters, with Dr. Jill Crosby, on the history of jazz in a Feb 2014 publication from the University Press of Florida called Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches. She greatly enjoys her U of C teaching assignments and finds the studio a vibrant place to be. During recent years she has been happy to have funded performance-creation projects take the stage working with small and large casts and often with live music. These collaborations with musicians are always especially satisfying and dynamic. She is fortunate to be the recipient of choreographic commissions and international teaching assignments.  Publishing her research in journals, magazines as well working on book chapter assignments have been very rewarding. She has conducted ethnographic research in field sites such as Italy, Jamaica, Poland, India, Japan, Sénégal and The Gambia, West Africa as well as New York City, New Orleans, Winnipeg, Toronto, Victoria, Paris and Monréal to name a few locales. Her most significant ethnographic field sites are Guinée, West Africa and Cuba. She considers herself a citizen of the world; born in the UK of Jamaican and British parents, raised in Montréal, resident of Calgary and frequent flyer in search of the best vantage point from which to consider dance and dancing. Onward Weltanschauung-ers!


Jump to:
Choreography & Performance
Publications & Presentations

My current research continues to be presented on the page and on the stage. My arts-based research has been presented on the stage and in the studio, as independent choreographer and in association with DJD (Decidedly Jazz Danceworks), for over thirty years. DJD is a Calgary based concert jazz dance company and community school that I co-founded and co-directed for fifteen years. I am now celebrating the same number of year in the academy.  I have much respect and gratitude for my professional collaborators within the company and I have a great appreciation for the company that allows me to work in a rich milieu where others are also deeply involved in research and revealing jazz as a vibrant and meaningful art form. Thank you Vicki Willis, Hannah Stilwell Kim Cooper and the many company dancers over the years. I have more than seventy works in my choreographic repertoire. These many works created as an independent choreographer working with Dancers’ Studio West, NAfro, a Winnipeg-based dance company and in Toronto as part of dance Immersion programming.

I have presented my textual research at numerous conferences both nationally and internationally, including Congress on Research in Dance (CORD), Dance and the Child International (DaCi) and African Studies Association (ASA), Society Dance History Scholars (SDHS), Calgary Fluid Festival, International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) and Canadian Society for Dance Studies (CSDS).

My commitment to community-based participatory research was evidenced by my nationally funded series, the Why Dance? Project; a research/performance series in three-parts; Why Dance? (2005) Why Dance Too? (2009) and the final installment, Why Dance? 3D(2011). The Why Dance?-series of concerts celebrated dance education and the individual artists' capacity to shape and change our world. The series of concerts celebrated lifeworlds. It was a fusion of dance idioms with visual media, poetry, Why Dance Too? with live music and all with an appreciation for the joy of movement and potential for corporeal story-telling to enrich our lived-experience.

Ethnographic research takes place in West Africa, Cuba, New York City and of course, at home. I am moved by music-based, rhythmically generated authentic and innovative jazz dance. Recent print publications include two history chapters in the 2014 text Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches. Guarino and Oliver, eds. Gainesville: U of Florida publisher, and a chapter in Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance. Davida,D. ed. Wilfred Laurier UP, 2011

Choreography and Performance


Independent professional choreographic work for University of Calgary Professional Series Split Screen


Work from Decidedly Jazz Danceworks repertoire presented in University of Calgary Dance Montage

Creation assignment for University of Calgary Mainstage Dance


DSW Form Fusion - An evening of exploration and experimentation fusing Jazz, West African, movement and music with contemporary dance and music, with Davida Monk, mentor and artistic director for Dancers’ Studio West

Host - NAfro Dance for Inspirations Dance Festival and Symposium, invitation as choreographer and teacher

Creation duet musician and dancer (Deanne Walsh and Raul Tabera) at the Canadian Showcase of the International Association of Blacks in Dance

Calgary’s Black History Month performance event-choreographer

Other works

University of Calgary Mainstage Dance

University of Calgary Why Dance? Series

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks

Publications & Presentations

[[{"fid":"16362","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"","field_tags[und]":"","media_title[und][0][value]":"","media_description[und][0][value]":"","media_description[und][0][format]":"full_html"},"type":"media","attributes":{"class":"media-element file-default"}}]]


Two ‘history of jazz dance’ chapters published in 2014 reader co-authored with Jill Crosby. Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches
Editors Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver, University of Florida Press, © 2014


University of Calgary Kinesiology/Medicine CME & PD Performing Arts and Medicine Conference: Focusing on injuries in performing artists


Articles - The Dance Current Magazine

In Conversation Jazzing Culture/Culturing Jazz (Shawn Newman and Melissa Templeton)

Article - Crash and Create (Mary Fogarty and Luca “LazyLegz” Patuelli) CSDS (Canadian Society for Dance Studies), Montréal

Making (jazz) music and dance come alive for students and for audiences.

Jazzing Culture/Culturing Jazz: Shawn Newman and Melissa Templeton with Ethel Bruneau, Eva Von Gency, Vicki St. Denys discussing jazz dance in Canada

Conference featuring Canadians choreographing in an Africanist aesthetic, Winnipeg


Ethnography Reader - Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance © 2011, Dena Davida editor The Why Dance? Project: choreographing the text, dancing the data


The Dance Current, March

ASA (African Studies Association)


African Studies Arts
Conference Title: Africa at the Crossroads in New Orleans

Session Title: At the Continual Transition of Change: Researching Artistic form in Africa and the African Diaspora
Panel Chair: Dr. Jill Flanders, Crosby-University of Alaska Anchorage

Paper - In Flight, Influx and Under Deep Consideration

Dance and the Child International (DaCi) in Kingston, Jamaica

Dancing Cultural Pluralism: Strategies for Inclusive Curriculum in Public Schools
Format: Workshop/ Co-Presenter-Anne Flynn

Engage Now: University of Calgary - Sep. 30 - Oct. 1
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, honoured guest of the University of Calgary and a keynote speaker for the conference Engage NOW
Conference topic: revealing the potential of campus-community partnerships for positive social change, community development and enhanced student learning.
Presenter –“Community Dance –into the Field and Back Again”-Michèle Moss.
Co-presenters Anne Flynn and Lisa Doolittle

Society for Canadian Dance Studies (SCDS)

Calgary Community Professionals - Discussion



CORD (Congress on Research in Dance) 40th Anniversary CORD Conference “Choreographies of Migration”, November 8-11, 2007 at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York City, USA Dynamic Realities of “Traditional” Dance: Les Ballets Africains
(included in Conference Proceedings Publication)

Coordinator and chair of site work panel at Performance Studies International conference.


Conference discussant Latin American Studies, Calgary Alberta

Society of Dance History Scholars, Grounding Moves:Landscapes for Dance, Banff June 2006 Panel


Embodied Inspiration: Movement Creation Intoxication at Calgary’s Early Childhood Education Council Conference

Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG) Conference July 13 and 16, 2005
Engaging the Imagination in Teaching and Learning. Simon Fraser University British Columbia. Imaging Dance as a Window to Wonderment


Paradigms Lost, Paradigms Gained Calgary, Alberta, Canada The Function of Movement in an Interdisciplinary Model: Teaching and learning through the arts.

CORD (Congress on research in dance) Conference October 26-28, 2001 Transmigratory Moves: Dance in Global Circulation . New York University. New York, New York, USA Where the African Diaspora and Western Canada meet: A Case Study of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks

Other Publications

Martini, Clem & Moss, Michèle & Panayotidis, Lisa E. (2005). The Most Unnatural Act: Interdisciplinary and Working Across the Arts. Journal of Educational Thought: Revue de la Pensée Educative 39, (3) 245-26


Teaching philosophy

The direct and explicit philosophy that is a feature of my studio technique work and pedagogy courses has me respect and learn a great deal from the students I teach. I use their questions to demystify and encourage them to respect the question as much as the answer, if not more. I use the questions we generate to develop an approach that is dynamic, compassionate and of the moment. The heart of jazz music and dance is the style, the feel and for me authentic expression found in improvisation. The classroom is often the site of deep and exciting learning- found in the space between between musicians and dancers learning, sharing, and creating. The work ranges from historical material to current creations and often includes revealing jazz music and dance through structured improvisation. Studio jazz classes employ both recorded music as well as live accompaniment; guest musicians are sometimes solo artists or duets all the way to jazz trios/quartets. A three-piece West African drum ensemble can sometimes be found on site as we embody the rhythmic roots of jazz dance. This band is lead by djembé drummer and longtime collaborator, Trudy Hipwell. Sometimes by employing vocalese and body percussion the students are the musicians. Over the years many jazz and blues musicians have contributed to our studio practice, these include: Tim Williams, Kristian Alexandrov, Shannon Gaye, Derek Stoll, Cody Hutchison, Aaron Young, Simon Fisk, and Jonathan McCaslin. Featured artists and long-time collaborator Tyler Hornby has served as primary musical guide for a decade. Robin Tufts and Raul Tabera- SCPA/Dance accompanists and professional musicians- are of exceptional standing and bring a strong percussive sound into the studio and onto the stage. They are a vital aspect of style and musicality training. While I love to hear Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cassandra Wilson, Etta James or Louis Jordan blaring from the sound machine in jazz class nothing compares to live music!

I often use the model of ‘child’s play’ to inspire and to create. I sometimes visualize and understand improvisational dance this way. Although sometimes this image gives the impression that as a discipline it is deficient or lacks form and control, rigor I think it also speaks to the need for spirited, creative and experimentation. To be playful is to be bold and expressive. This is to be undertaken with a curious mind, is it potent and transformative. Child’s play is not a state that comes to mind when we think of scholarly research yet the image of the child at play does not have to corrupt our image of deeply contemplative, intense and rigorous investigation. The school year d the dance studio the stage can be sites of brave and determined expression. The image of playfulness, spirited and lively as well as joyful, are manifestations of freedom that can allow the dance artists’ viewpoint to be exposed as significant. This research is valid and in fact meritorious and most certainly it can formidable and groundbreaking. When it comes to jazz it is important to go way out, deep down, close to the bone and into the cracks-to take risks with expressions of YOU. Through intuitive responses, reflection and analytical investigation, the act of dancing, of improvising in a jazz-way, can be a rich source of self-knowledge and a formidable strategy for artistic inquiry.

Jazz dancing can mean exploring risk, practicing the act of surrender, commitment to the craft of innovation or reaching back in history to embody a bygone era. Jazz can mean moving with strength and suppleness, a torso alive with articulations and weight transfer that is sophisticated and complex. Skill in our discipline is also made manifest in story telling, using an expressive body and dedicated focus with an appreciation of gesture and isolations. Jazz, from roots to blossom, from the Shim Sham Shimmy to Electric Slide, Soul Train to afro-house and all manner of rhythm-generated, groove-based, funky and soulful expressions of jazz are fascinating to me. I find inspiration in the dancer/anthropologist, Katherine Dunham, the possession traditions of Haiti and Brasil, Horton modern dance technique, rhythm tap, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire throw in a little bit of Elvis hips and the wild abandon of Josephine Baker and I’m happy. I am inspired by the swing dancers of the Savoy ballroom, the showgirls and musicians of the Cotton Club, sabar dancing of West Africa and the many expressions of Latin dance traditions. Investigating and sharing both folkloric traditions and popular dance styles informs my understanding of jazz and is useful in the teaching and learning process.


Studio courses in jazz dance technique - junior to senior level (DNCE 211/311/313/411/413 and 571), West African Dance and Culture ( Special Topic), Dance Pedagogy/Teaching Techniques-junior and senior pedagogy courses (DNCE 449 and 493).

Creation: Choreographer for Mainstage (DNCE 395) and Dance MontageDance at NoonDance at Night

Cross Cultural Currents (formerly World and Social Dance) (DNCE 427) and Introduction to Dance (DNCE 243).

Guest teaching in the Education Faculty. Courses: Arts in the Schools and Teaching and Learning through the Arts in Graduate Division of Education.

Choreographer and artistic director for inaugural ‘special case’ Graduate Program of Dance Company (Drama BFA)

Group Credit Travel Study programs to Guinea* (2000, 20003, 2006) and Cuba (2006 and 2007) (in collaboration with Anthropology) (*working with Les Ballets Africains) and New York City 2011

Oral Examiner – U of C special case BFA and External Examiner - University of Regina Interdisciplinary Degree (Fine Arts Theatre Program and Dance Education)

Other teaching-General Community teaching and mentoring to children and adults in private studios, universities and in public schools throughout Alberta, in other regions of Canada and internationally.

Service as jury member, specialist and peer assessment/adjudicator with: Canada Council, Heritage Canada, SSHRC and Canada Council/Alberta Creative Development Initiative program.

Serving as Board member national society (2011- current – (CSDS)-Canadian Society for Dance Studies

Served Alberta Education for revision of Fine Arts Curriculum 2009-2010

University of Calgary, Fine Arts Education committee-past assignment

On-going engagement with community dance teachers through course work, engaging teachers as guest speakers and placements for advanced practicum students (2005-present)

Powered by UNITIS. More features.