This week, W & M Physical Theatre previews Waiting Rooms in Heaven, their newest dance work, at the University of Calgary. The presentation coincides with the company’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
Founded in 1994, W & M Physical Theatre’s story begins in Poland where Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej, the company’s founders, met at Silesian Dance Theatre.
“They were just starting the very first professional contemporary dance company [Silesian Dance Theatre] in Poland. The wall had just come down. This was 1991,” Monteros recalls. “[Wojciech and I] made our first work together in 1993. We launched our company at the end of ‘94.”
The company left Poland in 2000 after financial struggles made it clear that a move was necessary, Monteros shares.
“We started the company in Gdansk. We were there for a long time, six or seven years before we felt that funding was never going to happen. I had a house. I sold my house. I put half of my salary into the bank so I could pay the Polish dancers. It was a big struggle…Wojciech and I finally decided that it was too big a struggle. We also wanted to be working in one place because we would be going back and forth between Poland and Canada. It was expensive and difficult.”
20 years later, Monteros and Mochniej’s commitment to the company has not wavered.
Balancing responsibilities at U of C, where Monteros and Mochniej both teach, with a professional commitment to making art with the company is a matter of making time, says Monteros.
“I think we are relentless. Some people criticize us for it, some people shake their heads. Other people maybe admire us for it…there is a big part of the university job that is committed to research, so that’s a huge support, but it’s true that there isn’t the time. You have to make it happen.”
And with that time, W & M Physical Theatre has been busy developing Waiting Rooms in Heaven which Monteros says has been a great opportunity to revisit themes and questions from old works.
Waiting Rooms in Heaven sets out to explore how we experience life, that is if we are truly living rather than waiting for life to happen.
“Really, the piece overall is not about leaving life. It’s about, are we really experiencing life? Maybe, is this heaven? If it is, why are we sitting in the waiting room and not doing anything about it?”
And though she likes to ask big questions in her work, Monteros says that she “would never try to find the answers for somebody,” preferring instead that the audience discover the answers for themselves.
After its preview in Calgary, the company will tour their new work across Poland for a month in the spring. There, as they have done here with this production, the company will integrate local actors into the performance in what Monteros says will be a “very short, intense rehearsal process.”
The piece will then return to Calgary in 2016 as a fully-developed work.
With a rich history behind it, W & M Physical Theatre has plenty to celebrate on its 20th anniversary as it moves forward into the future with new, exciting works.
U of C’s School of Creative and Performing Arts’ Dance Pro Series presents W & M Physical Theatre’s preview of Waiting Rooms in Heaven Jan 22 – Jan 24, 2015 at the University Theatre.
For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://scpa.ucalgary.ca/events/pro-series
For more information on W & M Physical Theatre, visit: http://wmdance.com