Calgary-based Davida Monk has been an influential figure in Canadian dance for over three decades, and we celebrate her career with a program of three works May 23-25. Our Lindsay Curtis sat down with her to discuss these works, her approach to dance and the Calgary/Vancouver dance connection.
LC: Who is Davida Monk?
DM: I began my professional career in 1985 with Le Groupe de la Place Royale of Ottawa, and helped to develop Canada’s first professional contemporary dance laboratory for choreographic development, Le Groupe Dance Lab. My works have been presented across Canada and in Europe. I have taught dance technique, creative process and choreography, have danced for and collaborated with many Canadian choreographers and artists and have been the recipient of awards for choreographic development and touring. I directed Calgary’s Dancers’ Studio West, an organization dedicated to the development of choreographers from 2008 – 2018 and currently am Associate Professor Emerita (University of Calgary), and Artistic Director of M-Body, dedicated to the development of my own works, since 2004.
LC: How would you describe your approach to dance?
DM: As a dance artist, I embrace the multiple roles of performing, creating, learning and teaching in the belief that these essentials of practice continually inform one another, enrich my artistry, and encourage connection to the wider community and contribute to the vitality of the form.
Many of my pieces investigate and express the deep human connection with elemental forces, the natural and more-than-human world. I believe that if we openly explore our emotional, psychological, and physical ties to the landscape, we will gain a greater insight into our own humanity. I aim to create works that inhabit a special human-landscape sensibility, that praise and perhaps redeem, through the art of dance, our relationship to the land.
Another of my major interests is work that reveals itself as a lyric art form with poetic, philosophical and intellectual underpinnings. I am dedicated to a certain rigour in the pursuit of movement vocabulary: that it comes from a deep connection to the inspiration that drives the dance, that it functions cogently as a base language; and that its range and subtlety be developed enough to infect both process and the product with the vitality of discovery.
My overarching concern is to create a convincing and compelling choreographic world that provides a satisfying aesthetic experience, a sustained theatrical engagement, and a provocation to further contemplation for the audience.
LC: Tell us about the ‘Alberta-Vancouver connection’ – how do the respective dance communities resemble/differ from each other?
Although Calgary’s dance community is small, it is home to significant resources. These resources serve to support a certain number of serious choreographers and performers, and to stimulate interest and activity for the community and the theatre-going public. However, many Calgary dance artists travel to enrich their training and to gain greater experience.
I see Vancouver’s dance community as very rich in aesthetic variety, broad in its range of activities, blessed in its resources, training programs and support systems, and notably mature in its multigenerational membership. It strikes me as a community that has both the weight and the critical mass necessary to be a hub, a true dance centre.
Over the last three decades I have been a frequent visitor to Vancouver where I have rehearsed, performed, created, studied, debated and taught. My numerous Vancouver dance colleagues include those I first encountered as a young dancer as well as those met through associations with my more current work. I look forward immensely to the continuation of all these relations, and to the beginning of new ones.
LC: Tell us about the works you are showing in Vancouver.
DM: The show includes three works.
For Antigone is a work that I commissioned from choreographer Paras Terezakis, Artistic Director of Kinesis Dance somatheatro. My interest in Paras’ work stems from his formative experience and enduring interest in Greek theatre. The duet places me with young Vancouver dancer Arash Khakpour and serves as an homage to the figure of Antigone.
The Return, which was premiered in 2018 in Calgary, is a solo I commissioned from Alberta choreographer Helen Husak. The piece touches on sorrow and loss, and significantly on the solace found in the profound human connection to nature.
Ashes for Beauty premiered in Calgary in 2017 and I am remounting here, allowing me to dig into the challenges of the piece. It draws its inspiration from two complementary sources: the profound transformations that are central to all human lives, including joy and suffering, and the evocative promptings of the natural world. It has been rewarding and liberating to work with the seven members of this cast of Vancouver dancers as I share a creative history with each one of them.
LC: What would you like audience members to take away with them after the show?
DM: It is my great hope that audience members experience an uplifting confirmation of the power of the human imagination, that they take away the memory of an immersive engagement in a wholly convincing artistic world.
The Dance Centre presents the Global Dance Connection series
Davida Monk - Ashes for Beauty
May 23-25, 2019, 8pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre, Vancouver