Dana Michel Interview Feb 25, 2016

by Erin

Dana Michel discusses dance, inspiration, being a mother and how she came to be a choreographer in this short interview from Dancemakers.

What is dance?

What is dance? It’s such a drastic question! Dance is the body moving. That’s it for me. The body is moving, we are dancing.

Who is Dana?

I was born and raised in Ottawa, my parents are from the Caribbean, and so I’m first generation Canadian. I’m the whole…they came here to, yeah, to give me a better life. To give me opportunities that they didn’t have.

My uncle was an accountant and he had a briefcase and he looked very very important and very serious, and I thought that that was obviously what I should be doing. And so I studied accounting, and I was quite serious about it. I was in the accounting club…ok. And then at a certain point, I decided – no – I’m going to need something a little bit more human, and a little bit more creative. And so I moved into marketing and human resource management.

How did you get into making dance?

Around the same time that I started going to raves, and so I was business woman, briefcase, suit, by week, and raving, dancing all weekend. And basically at a certain point the huge kind of pivotal moment was, I was sitting in the office and I opened up a newspaper and saw some ad for the Condordia Contemporary Dance Department, called, and spoke to Sylvie Panet-Raymond – beautiful Sylvie – and she just said, “you should just come audition!” and I said, this is quite crazy, and I hung up and that was just  crazy talk. Anyway, I auditioned a year later, and I got in. And even then it was still meant to be kind of, I’m like, oh, I’ll just live my little fantasy life dream for four years and then I’ll like wake up and snap out of it and go back to being a business woman and probably move to Ottawa and buy my house in the suburbs and be a proper human being. And…no. That didn’t happen. I fell in love with the new world, and freedom. And so…that’s how I came to dance. (laughs)

What are you working on as a Dancemakers Resident Artist?

We’ve been brought together at Dancemakers to make dances – and that’s the premise. And then, but, we can balloon around this premise and then come back to this premise from like all kinds of expanded territories. And this is what I’m – I’m excited and actually feeling more and more calm about. And I mean, the work that I’ve been doing on myself is – I’m just kind of digging into personal territory. My thing is, I feel like if I can dig into me, then I can dig and reach out to others. And so, hmm, how does that happen with like four other people? Do I dig into them? Do they dig into them and I witness the digging into them? How – are we digging into each other to dig out? But this seems to be what the work is. This digging and excavating while making. With making being the kind of common goal.

How is it working with other people?

I’ve been working on myself for the past five years? Something like this? Six years? I’ve been just working on myself. A little hobbit, alone. And so this is the return to exteriority. And the return to being with other people. And so we will see what kinds of things I make with other people. Or that we make together.

What is it like being a mother?

Wow, I can’t even imagine what the past couple of years would’ve been like without him and my partner Mathieu, in my life. They are really quite central to my making process. Most of the research goes down in our kitchen. Watching Roscoe roll around, being, you know, this two year old-discovering-scientist-crazy-man, and Mathieu and I making jokes while chopping up onions. This is where most of the work happens. And so again, there’s – the overlaps just overlap more and more, and I’m grateful to have this love base and this family.