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15 Minutes with Choreographer Dana Michel

Montréaler Dana Michel’s seminal solo work Yellow Towel made its Toronto première last Saturday as part of Dancemakers Minifest (going on until June 24th). In April, she was awarded the prestigious Silver Lion for Innovation in Dance of the 2017 Venice Biennale. She was recently highlighted amongst notable female choreographers of the year by The New York Times.

In Yellow Towel, Dana moves through tropes of black identity in a kind of dare to the audience: is this what you want to see of me? 

We checked in with Dana last week.

SDTC: What should we be paying more attention to?

DM: Whatever you need or want to pay attention to. I’m really not interested in directing an audience’s thought process. I, as an audience member, like to have space. When I made this work I was thinking a lot about what kind of experience I like to have when I’m in the theatre…and I like to have a lot of space to make up my own mind about what to do when I’m taking in work.

What was the last Netflix series you binged on?

This past winter I watched Please Like Me in a rather short span of time. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my damn life, if not just the flat-out best.

One new thing you learned this year?

I acquired more specific information about how I am wired and it’s helping me to make more loving decisions in general.

What memory brings a smile to your face?

Dropping to the floor in the middle of a damn department store in hysterical laughter and crying and drooling a bit with my friend Gaveen about fifteen years ago.

Dana Michel in Yellow Towel – Photo by Maxyme G. Delisle

What book/song/lyric/etc is resonating with you right now?

I’ve been listening to a lot of PNL on the train between Montréal and Toronto in the past month. They’re Cloud Rappers from France. Cloud Rap! I love this term so much.

Describe the funniest thing you’ve experienced in recent memory.

My four-year-old son, my partner and I all riffing off of each other around the same inside joke that has been going on for months. My son busted out a riff out of the total blue a couple of weeks after the peak of the joking had died down and I nearly peed myself. He’s becoming a master joker pretty quickly.

Best advice you’ve been given?

I’ve been given a lot of good advice. First thing that comes to mind is from my friend Chris who had recently made a kind of new, wise, older friend who said to him, “Nothing should be hard. Things can be much easier than we think.” Thinking about life as a kind of body of water and me on a boat/as a boat has been a helpful image for quite some time.

What is the best part of being your current age?

I feel like I’m becoming less and less anxious about constantly pleasing others before I even know where the bloody hell I’m at. This is a very life-saving continuous drip evolutionary movement to be sure.

What word or phrase should we use more often?

I just think that we should question our positions on EVERYTHING a lot more.

What’s on your night stand?

Hot water in a thermos, wax ear plugs, eye mask, melatonin drops, a pencil, a handkerchief, leftover pomegranate juice from last night’s eating crap food in bed bonanza. I flew in from Switzerland and needed comfort zone time hardcore. Comfort zone time is junk food and some kind of movie or show or a book in bed. Maybe I can get hypnotized to train myself out of loving chips in bed so much.

What one item would you be lost without (besides your phone)?

Hand moisturizer. I literally cannot function with dry hands.

Your biggest dance pet peeve?

“Emotions” that are plastered on because it’s what is thought to be necessary for whatever reason.

 

Who was your celebrity crush when you were a kid?

Joey from New Kids On The Block.

Whose choreography are you loving at the moment?

The last few performance works that made my guts ooze out my ears were by Simon Portigal, Teresa Vittucci, and Anastasia Ax.

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