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December 2022: Meagan O’Shea
Who is Meagan O’Shea in a sentence?
An eternal optimist.
Making things, moving my body, and performing for people seem to be three of the main ingredients of me.
Tell us a bit about your work and practice.
For the past number of years, I have made dance-theatre-comedy-clown-DIY spectacular-science experiment, interactive solo shows that have toured internationally. I’ve also led an ongoing site-responsive ensemble improv project “dance like no one is watching” since 2007 across Canada.
My practice is improvisation based. I recently began to call it Oblique/Switch, which is a generative sourcing method to get at ideas from multiple perspectives. I always create through improv and then have to decide how I’m going to perform. I love crafting things, so I usually set things. I feel like through improv I am digging around trying to find the best way to express something, so if I don’t set it, it’s like the future me is doing a slightly less good impression of myself.
Working internationally is an integral part of my practice. Understanding that there are no fixed perspectives because people everywhere have different values, or the same values but shaped practically through different realities and histories.
I am currently completely engaged in bringing a medium scale project to life; ANATOMALIA. It brings together all of my practices: autobiography, community engagement, audience interaction, in-situ. It’s an ensemble work in 3 iterations that always includes a chorus of local dancers who create an ongoing and always changing frame for the work. It is a multi-channel video installation, an in-situ ambulatory performance and an onstage show. And it’ll be in Vancouver next season!
How long have you been dancing?
In the living room, forever.
Formally since I was 11. I started training at Le Groupe Dance Lab’s evening classes in my early teens. Then Simon Fraser University, then Main Dance Place, then The School of Dance, then professional development in many forms in many places that added to my understanding and uncovering of what I really do.
How does dance fit into your life currently?
Dance or dance? I mean everything I do is part of my DANCE/LIFE. The actual act of being in a studio and dancing or on stage and dancing is not necessarily an everyday activity. But writing grants, pitching projects, teaching, facilitating, organizing, scheduling and then creating, dancing, performing are almost the only things I do.
How would you describe dance’s impact on your life?
Complete. For good and for bad. This is my world. There’s a few other worlds that I live in, but primarily it’s dance. Which is ironic because I was made to feel like an outsider for a long time. It’s too bad that it took so long for queer and dance for female bodies to come together. Dance and its gatekeepers did tremendous damage to me. But dancing kept me alive. It saved my life.
What three core values drive your engagement with dance?
The tenets of my practice, shared with everyone I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching:
The rules: Don’t run in a circle, no centre-centre (unless you are the virgin or the king or making fun of either; it’s 2022), no seaweed arms. I know why we all make these choices, but we can make better ones.
Do you have a particular practice that you carry out each day or have you implemented new practices as a way of adapting to the current climate?
I drink coffee every day. When the lockdown happened, I really did make routines. I read tarot cards and practiced meditating with crystals and did a lot of yoga, pilates, ballet barre.
But when there isn’t a lockdown there is a lot less consistency. I try to swim a lot, I try to write often, I make a lot of lists, and do a lot of the things on them. I try to get on my yoga mat a lot, but some periods of time it’s not possible. For instance, I was just at Tanzmesse with The Dance Centre delegation, and there was no time for this kind of personal space. I unrolled it in my hotel room and did 30 minutes on the first day, but once the event begins, it’s more important to be out meeting people, seeing work, or on the dancefloor at night.
The pandemic gave me the opportunity to dive deeply into a project that expands all my capacities and skill sets. It’s good and bad. Making solos is excruciating, confronting oneself by oneself…uggghhhh, but raising the money, getting the residencies, coordinating the schedules for ensemble work with an international team? Sometimes it’s like chewing tinfoil.
What would you say are the most significant benefits for you in being a Dance Centre member?
Project planning and consultation. Mirna Zagar has been such a great support. As I am expanding beyond my skill set with my current project, she has been available to consult and advise me on what and how to go about various steps. I’ve also enjoyed studio space and receiving a mini-commission. Drawing on Mirna’s knowledge has had a huge impact on how I move forward with this project.
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Photo by Thelon Oeming; Tristán Pérez-Martín; featuring: Arantza Lopez Medina, Areli Moran Mayoral, Jennifer Dahl, Cathy Walsh, Meagan O’Shea; collage: Meagan O’Shea