It’s the end of our first week in the studio with the wild and wonderful Mélanie Demers, and we can all agree on one thing: We have survived something.
And after a weekend to rest up and recharge, we are in for two more weeks of it (don’t worry, we’re ready for it)!
We all arrived in Montréal separately a few days before rehearsals started, and for me, returning to Montréal after having lived here a few years ago was as refreshing, energizing and exciting as ever. Every familiar street and neighbourhood holds a piece of nostalgia for me, but most of all I am reminded that this city is vibrating. It is full of life and buzzing and there is always something waiting around the corner. You can’t be bored here, and it’s pretty hard to be uninspired either. It makes sense that someone like Mélanie, who is as exciting and intense as the city itself, has chosen to set up camp here. She is fiery and quick-witted and fierce, and she is always pushing.
We are being challenged physically, mentally and emotionally, in the best possible way. On the very first day, I don’t think there was one of us that didn’t leave the studio with a new scrape or bruise; a souvenir of day one, so to speak. When you get battered and bruised right off the bat, there is nothing to do except to keep throwing yourself at the work. There’s nothing left to lose. So that’s what we did this week.
We are here because we wanted a challenge. We wanted to shake things up for Good Women, and to learn other ways of working. So far, that hasn’t been a problem. There are times that our minds and bodies are stretched so far that we can’t even wrap ourselves around what is happening to us. There is exhaustion. There is the steeliness of the mind when the body thinks it can’t go on. At the time, it’s overwhelming, but in hindsight, that’s exactly why we are all here in Montréal.
Some would call Mélanie unforgiving, and in fact some of the dancers I know who have worked with her have asked me if any of us have cried yet. Some of us have. But as we wrapped up Friday’s rehearsal, and Mélanie waxed apologetic for being demanding and overbearing, we all agreed that although she is intense (this point is not really arguable!), she is never cruel. It is never about the individual; it is always about the work. She is never saying, “You’re a terrible dancer, get out of my studio.” Everything she says, even if it is tough to swallow, is in the name of building something together. Something strong, something fierce and, most importantly, something real and true. As we all know, the truth is stranger and tougher than fiction, but bruises and skinned knees are only temporary.