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Coming up as part of our Global Dance Connections series, CUTLASS SPRING is the latest creation from Montreal-based dance artist Dana Michel. Our Executive Director Mirna Zagar shares some insights into this exciting artist and her work.
Who is Dana Michel?
Dana Michel is a Canadian artist who is likely more known internationally and in Montreal than here in Vancouver. She trained as an athlete (a competitive runner and football player!) and worked as a marketing executive before engaging with dance after graduating from Concordia University. Over the past few years, her work has seized the attention of audiences and critics around the world, resulting in a slew of acknowledgements and awards. In 2014 The New York Times featured her among notable female dance artists to watch out for, and that same year she received the new Impulstanz Award (in Vienna, Austria, one of the most exciting dance festivals in the world!). In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious Silver Lion for Innovation in Dance at the Venice Biennale. Working internationally, she is based in Montreal and is an associate artist with the innovative dance company Par B.L.eux.
I would describe her as fearless, attractive, powerful, curious, empathic, provocative, an innovator. She approaches topics with conviction, determination and pride, speaking about identity – as a woman…. a viewer, a witness… a person of colour…. She considers race, gender, sexuality, against societal rules and expectations, and turns these inside out.
How would you describe her work?
I saw Dana’s work Yellow Towel in Montreal some years ago. It was already clear then that this was a performer and creator that will be on the world stage for years to come!
Her work is multifaceted, a collage that arises from her interest in dance, theatre, film, urban culture and performance art. Objects are her obsession and her playfulness with these triggers our imagination. She is influenced by history, psychology, literature and social reflection. She questions authority, and upsets stereotyping. A range of influences move her to articulate her own perspective of the world and engage us, the audience, to dialogue with the powerful imagery that unfolds in front of us. Even when we can expect to be a bit uneasy with what is proposed, she makes space for humour and allows us to laugh our uneasiness away. Although her work is bold, I feel there is also a gentleness about it.
Tell us about CUTLASS SPRING.
CUTLASS SPRING is a solo which explores human sexuality, and examines how cultural repression and her life as a performer, mother, lover, and creator have shaped her own sexual identity. Call it a form of sexual education through art. The work is in the round, with seats all around the stage, so as we enter, we have to decide which side to take. But you cannot change your position once the show has started.… you have been fixed.… the work asks you to have no set position in accepting, digesting it… just as in life, one has to be open to the unexpected, and identities can be continually shifting and changing. It’s a witty show with some very funny moments – Dana marshals shapes, objects and materials, everything from plastic garden chairs to cutlery and clothing – using her voice as well as her body to take us on a strange, alluring journey.
More importantly this is a work about how we can listen to our own instincts amidst the noises and pressures of society that impose expectations upon us. She does this by exploring her own life and personal history, the landscape around her, on this quest to determine and identify her own human potential. Through this work Dana confirms once again her originality as an artist, offering us a glimpse into the liberation of the body and the self.
What made you decide to bring this show to Vancouver?
We are presenting CUTLASS SPRING through our annual partnership with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival which is a perfect fit as the work does not speak only to a dance audience. It’s a piece that speaks many languages and can be appreciated by a myriad of art lovers. This is at the core of our partnership with PuSh, that we can build a context that allows us to push the boundaries of our understanding of what dance is. We can work to cross-pollinate audiences with works that invite exploration and have a bold personality, and a different angle of observing the world we live in.
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connections Series
Dana Michel: CUTLASS SPRING
February 6-8, 2020 | 8pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Info and Tickets
Presented with the Push International Performing Arts Festival
Photos: Jocelyn Michel and Richmond Lam