Celebrating 45 Years: Dance Montage and The Importance of Community

For Wojciech Mochniej, Dance Montage’s Artistic Director, dance is more relevant than ever in our fast-paced, modern society. “[What attracts people to dance] is the connection to the human, to the three-dimensional world. With TV, we can cook, clean, and pick up the phone at the same time…but we are not meeting anyone. We are disconnected,” says the full-time dance instructor at the University of Calgary.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, Dance Montage – presented by U of C’s School of Creative and Performing Arts – is an opportunity for both beginning and experienced dance artists to come together and create new work. Auditions are open to everyone of all skill levels; an invitation that extends to the community at large.

The secret to Dance Montage’s longevity, says Mochniej, is the opportunity it gives community members who are not thinking of dance as a profession to perform, to share ideas, and, in doing so, connect with their community.

It is the importance of community that inspired Matthew Hall to write and direct (Mis)Communication, one of several new dance pieces which will be presented at Dance Montage. “My uncle…he’s always sparking conversation with people on the C-Train,” the fourth year drama student shares, “no one is used to it nowadays, Everyone thinks he’s weird. Or they’re too busy or plugged into their phones.” It this disconnect brought on by technology’s rising influence that Hall explores in (Mis)Communication.

(Mis)Communication. Choreography by Meghann Michalsky. Directed by Matthew Hall. Music composed by August Murphy. Photo Credit: Wojciech Mochniej

(Mis)Communication. Choreography by Meghann Michalsky. Directed by Matthew Hall. Music composed by August Murphy. Photo Credit: Wojciech Mochniej

Of course, the dance piece would not have been possible without Meghann Michalsky and August Murphy, Hall’s choreographer and musical composer respectively.

In July 2013, the School of Creative and Performing Arts was created. Bringing together the former departments of dance, music, and drama under one school has allowed students more opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration. Hall, Michalsky, and Murphy met last year during a production of Aesop’s Fables.

“To work with people outside my discipline…they challenged me way more to push my art and myself out of my comfort zone,” says Michalsky, a U of C dance alumnus (‘14). Murphy, a fourth year music student, nods her head in agreement. “I’ve worked with actors and dancers onstage as a performer, but this type of work…I learned how something may be clear to me as a musician, but it may not necessarily be clear to the dancers onstage. “We think of things differently, and I [needed] to find how to communicate in such a way that everyone understands,” explains Murphy who says this is her first time composing. The quality of their final product, all three agree, would not have been possible without the support of their fellow artists.

What does the future of dance and Dance Montage look like for Mochniej? Neither, he believes, are going anywhere any time soon, even with the rapid growth of technology. “I’ve been dancing for over 30 years…[and] even when you repeat the same things, you still discover something new about yourself, your potential, and your strength” says the dancer as he prepares to go teach one of his classes. “The community will always feel the need to perform, because dance is an organic experience.”

What else, Mochniej closes with, can give you such a connection to what makes us human?


The School of Creative and Performing Arts will present Dance Montage, from Thursday, Nov. 20 to Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 in the University Theatre, located on the University of Calgary’s campus.

This 45th production will celebrate the life of Sigurd Hagen-Torn (1927-2011) who began his involvement with Dance Montage at the age of 50, dancing for the next 32 years until his last performance in 2009. He is remembered for his great spirit and passion for dance.

For more information on Dance Montage and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://scpa.ucalgary.ca/events/dance-montage-0

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