Calgary is known for many things but contemporary dance is not one of them. Still, two independent female choreographers are trying to change that by coming together to create a headlining production.
The GRAND, the oldest theatre in Calgary’s downtown core, was filled with nearly 200 applauding audience members this International Women’s Day weekend as Project InTandem, a contemporary dance group, held their second performance.
Sylvie Moquin and Meghann Michalsky started Project InTandem in 2017. The two felt as though they had already exhausted the opportunities available to them in Alberta, so they took a chance.
“That's where our initial inspiration came from, the lack of opportunity, so we decided to create it,” says Michalsky.
Both Moquin and Michalsky’s works are inspired by the ebbs and flows of different mental health challenges. In her piece, Michalsky explores the separation of opposing sensations in the body to expose the power of internal conflict. She also draws inspiration from her personal experience with spiritual resurrection and the need for change.
“You’ll always eventually come out of the deep end, it’s just a matter of when and if you’re patient enough to ride out the wave.”
“My work is called Deep END because you have to go deep to do the work. You’ll always eventually come out of the deep end – it’s just a matter of when and if you’re patient enough to ride out the wave.”
Calgary based dance artist Kyra Newton performs her solo in Sylvie Moquin’s choreography. Photo by Nikita Lehnert-Thiel
Moquin’s piece, “moving through, it all amounts to something,” has an underlying message of hopefulness. In her exploration of the concept of neuroplasticity, she finds empowerment.
“For me, it’s been something that I can grasp onto, and it provides me with a sense of hope. It provides me with a sense of ‘I don't have to be a victim in my current circumstance, I have the ability to change, rewire, move through, and keep working,’” she said.
Although each choreographer has a different creative process, both of the dance projects have been in the works for over a year and a half which has involved gathering ideas, researching movement structures and putting together a dance crew.
Moquin has four dancers: Valentina Dimitriou, Brenna Goertson, Kyra Newton and Chantal Wall.
Both Moquin and Michalsky are also performers in Michalsky’s piece, along with Kaili Che, Valentina Dimitriou, and Katherine Semchuk.
This event is Semchuk’s first dance with Project InTandem, but she has worked with Michalsky for the past couple of years. She started in the studio in October, helping research movement ideas.
Born and raised Calgarian Valentia Dimitriou performing in Sylvie Moquin’s piece, moving through, it all amounts to something. Photo by Erin Sweere
“My favourite part of the process is trying to understand Meghann’s physicality, really get into her mind and trying to articulate what she’s trying to get out of the movement and trying to articulate that through my own body. It’s challenging, but it's exciting when something clicks,” Semchuk says.
The young dancer reflects on what part of the evening performances she is most looking forward to, and in doing so reveals why events like this are important for the city.
“Having Calgary to be able to see the work that these two amazing people have put into producing the show and choreographing is what I’m most excited about. There's not a lot of self-produced contemporary dance in Calgary or Alberta, so it’s great that Calgarians get to see this.”
The two choreographers both want to change the arts community in Calgary and are actively trying to improve the city's contemporary dance scene. They came together to create Project InTandem in hopes of broadening their reach as creators as well as their impact. By including younger dancers in the process, they hope to encourage them to stay in the community.
“We have seen a lot of people leave the city to go elsewhere to pursue the arts, so we are trying to impact the community to stay here and show them that worthwhile art is happening in Calgary,” says Michalsky.
“I am interested in showcasing a female in a way that's not necessarily shown on Instagram or Hollywood."
“Yes, it has been an opportunity for Meghann and I to create work and develop our chops as choreographers, but it's also a platform of opportunity for everyone involved. To be able to provide those higher scale opportunities here in Calgary, it's important to us, and it's been part of our platform from the very beginning,” Moquin added.
The show strategically took place on women’s day weekend from March 5 to 7. Though the performance wasn’t created specifically with the day in mind, both Moquin and Michalsky’s work portrays many aspects of empowerment and femininity.
“I am interested in showcasing a female in a way that's not necessarily shown on Instagram or Hollywood,” Michalsky says. “I let femininity be bold physicality instead of limiting it by a concept.”
Most of the artists involved with the performance aside from the dancers are also women. Both Moquin and Michalsky are proud to have a team of ‘bold, amazing women’ as part of the project.
“To be showcasing that talent on this scale is just crucial for our society to see, and for Calgary audiences to see, and I think both works really dig into that,” says Moquin. “It’s bold, there's a lot of prowess, there's physicality. It's unapologetic.”
Watch more on Project InTandem
- By Erin Sweere & Nikita Lehnert-Thiel