I had no idea what to expect when re-entering the rehearsal process for Mélanie’s work after leaving it for two months. I know the piece had been sitting in the back of all of our minds due to the fact that slivers of reflections on the process in Montréal or ideas about the movement would find their way into our conversations unexpectedly. I imagined that starting into rehearsals this time around would be difficult because of the improvised nature of the material and the fact that I didn’t exactly know how to prepare myself for this last phase of creation.
We had video documentation of the showing that was captured on our last day in Montréal, but I knew that a recreation of that video would be the last thing that Mélanie would want. Mélanie has brought new meaning to the age old convention that ‘dance is fleeting’ so whatever I deemed significant in August would no longer be relevant. The difficulty for me was how to recapture the dance without trapping it in its place. Mélanie repeatedly asks the impossible of us in this way that often seemed contradictory – That is, to remember the moments that were successful but not to repeat the same things each time. To improvise, but to be in unison. To be in unison, but to not be doing the same thing. To hook yourself to everyone else’s impulses, but to simultaneously be a solo performer.
Many times throughout this process I have felt like a 5-year-old in the studio who had to be told over and over again right from wrong. Sometimes it seems almost comical how long it has taken us to understand the concepts that Mélanie is proposing. It has been humbling, it has been frustrating, it has been shockingly difficult. It has also been thrilling and addictive. I am hooked. Every day spent with MAYDAY has been a chance for me to nerd out on dance in a way that I haven’t done since university. I was in a place where everything I knew to be true and comforting about dance was been taken from me and I had not yet discovered new tools.
As unsettling as this has been, I also understand that this experience is a gift. It’s not often that we allow ourselves to flounder long enough to feel like we actually might drown. Mélanie refused to step in at the last minute to save us. And miraculously, in the end, we found our own way out of the confusion. We created our own tools. We adapted and evolved. In Mélanie’ s work, we are allowed to take our own trajectory. We observe what movement or interaction or tone had been successful in the past but that doesn’t stop us from deviating to try something new. Mélanie has said often “You have the right…” It is our right to offer her a new possibility, even if it is the opposite of what she has asked of us. The trick is not to be paralyzed by the freedom that she has given us.
The work itself is unlike anything Good Women has done before. It is very much in Mélanie’s dark, provocative style, confronting topics that most would rather shy away from, and doing so with humour, sarcasm, and all the while staining everything with discomfort. We get to be real people, not just moving shapes. The experience of performing onstage will be the same as what we experience in the studio in that the final work will require us to strive and search and question just as much as we did on day one of the process.
We five dancers have had many discussions about the content of the work, because of its controversial subject matter. We have concerns about how our audiences will receive it and about how many people we might offend. Yet we know that the work is important and needs to be seen. It is our responsibility as artists to find a way to deliver the content so that it is heard, rather than dismissed; so that it affects, rather than offends.
Read about our residency experience week by week…