Dana Michel is a choreographer and live artist based in Montreal. In 2005, she graduated from the BFA program in Contemporary Dance at Concordia University in her late twenties. Prior to this, she was a marketing executive, competitive runner and football player. She is a 2011 danceWEB scholar (Vienna, Austria) and an associate artist at Par B.L.eux, a contemporary creation company founded by Benoît Lachambre, since 2017. She recently became the first-ever dance artist in residence at the National Art Centre (Ottawa, Canada) in 2018.
Her first extended-length solo performance piece, Yellow Towel, was featured on the “Top Five” and the “Top Ten” 2013 dance moments in the Voir newspaper (Montreal) and Dance Current Magazine (Canada) respectively. In 2014, she was awarded the newly created ImPulsTanz Award (Vienna) in recognition for outstanding artistic accomplishments and was highlighted amongst notable female choreographers of the year by the New York Times. That same year concluded withYellow Towelappearing on the Time Out New York Magazine “Top Ten Performances” list. Her most recent and critically-acclaimed solo, Mercurial George, was premiered at Festival TransAmériques (Montreal) in June 2016. Both pieces are currently on tour.
In June 2017, The Venice Biennale awarded Dana Michel the Silver Lion for Innovation in Dance.
An amalgam of choreography, intuitive improvisation and performance art, my artistic practice is rooted in exploring the multiplicity of identity. I work with notions of performative alchemy and post-cultural bricolage – using live moments, object appropriation, personal history, future desires and current preoccupations to create an empathetic centrifuge of experience between myself and witnesses.
Today, her work can perhaps best be described by its influences: lucid cinematography, living sculpture, physical comedy, psychological excavation, deconstructed social commentary, the bulimic logic of Hip Hop and child-like naïveté.
It is a metaphor of humans as mathematical proofs that helps me understand the world around me. I consider myself, and others, to be like proofs – complex entities made up of billions of equations. The topics that I choose to explore in my work, such as identity duality and marginalized existences, tend to be intimate parts of my personal equation. I feel that making work by tapping into my life experiences is the most effective path to self-knowledge and to meaningful connection with others.
In research, I alternate between the work that takes place in and out of the studio. After pouring over a subject via writing, reading, discussion and audiovisual research – I relax my focus and let the body take over. I feed myself with sound, silence and dissonance, at times over-stuffing my body and psyche with stimulation to see its response.
And then the minute details pop into my seeing and kinetic vision. Sometimes these details manifest in visceral-based movement and sounds and other times in ideas for colour, texture or light. These details are what clarify the work’s creative direction for me.
Because of my background in competitive sport, I am often drawn to using difficulty as a choreographic navigation methodology. Encouraging my performances into places of emergency and vulnerability allow me to dig deeper into the material and to therefore share richer and perhaps more honest findings.
My relatively late and blind introduction to the world of contemporary art seems to infuse a sort of Art Brut sensibility to my performance work.
My pieces have been created and shared in diverse spaces, cities and countries. Inhabiting both traditional and nontraditional places has become a key component in the creation of my work. It is important for me to be able to speak to different cuts of the population in different moments of time, and I am always aware of how these location changes can affect both the sending and the receiving of the work.
I aim to construct works in such a manner that there is much to gain no matter what the public’s knowledge or background. All perceptions of the work are just as valid and important as its intentions – a notion of exponential multiplicity of reactions is welcome.
My work is meant to leave a vast open space for viewers to understand whatever they want and need to understand. A goal is to encourage a broadening of interpretation and space for audience members to create their own logic of witnessing and experiencing. I am interested in sharing a journey where along the way a new manner of seeing can be formed.