Note: Sections of this article were previously printed in the April issue of Entertainment Northwest.

Certain moments exist where one senses the arrival of something great, and the human body starts to vibrate and shiver in a show of cellular, anticipatory frenzy. Such is an appropriate response to the news that Canadian contemporary dance company Montreal Danse has arrived on Western’s campus, and will be in residency until May 10. The residency was kick-started by a stunning performance on Saturday night at the PAC, and will continue as a collection of master classes, discussions and forums on issues related to dance, French, and Canadian culture.

“One of the strongest elements of the residency is the interdisciplinary nature of it, in that we are able to include three separate programs—Dance, French and the Canadian-American studies program,” said dance program coordinator Jessica Stahl. “At the same time, it’s not exclusive to students in those programs. The university needs more of that interdisciplinary concentration—it’s more representative of what you experience in the world.”

Speaking of the world beyond Western, it is worthy to note the acclaim Montreal Danse has received on a global level. “Having Montreal Danse here is an honor,” said Stahl. “They are an internationally renowned dance company with incredible choreographers.” “Their work is extraordinary,” said Nolan Dennett, director of Western’s Dance Program. “As a repertory company, they stand alone—there is no equal.”

For the past 10 years, the group has been under the artistic direction of Kathy Casey. In that time, Casey has invited an international roster of today’s cutting-edge choreographers to build original work on this versatile group. The result is a merging of culture through the language of physicality, and a repertory infused with the diversity and dynamism of today’s global contemporary dance scene.

“I look for choreographers that I find and fall in love with,” said Casey. “It has nothing to do with their particular choreographic style…what I look for is choreography coming from an emotional place that is physically exciting, but emotionally captivating.”
“Because of the way we’re structured, with choreographers from around the world with different voices and points of view, we have the ability to share what’s happening around the world in contemporary dance,” said Casey. Because of this unique positioning as an artistic and cultural force, the company’s residency should be particularly exciting.

Montreal Danse has visited Western before, in residency for the summer dance program. In reflecting upon past experiences here at Western, Casey said, “There is a big artistic discussion that goes on. We discuss questions like, ‘What is dance? What’s going on, and what does that mean for the field [of dance]?’” The residency offers a fertile environment for cross-pollination among disciplines, where an insight into artistic craft is inspired by a social or political conversation, and vice versa.

This year, because of the joint support of the dance, French and Canadian-American Studies programs, the residency has the potential to reach far further than ever before. On Tuesday May 2, the company will give lecture and discussion on “Dance in Canada.” Sticking with the interdisciplinary theme of the residency, the talk will be in both French and English, aimed at drawing a crowd with diverse academic, cultural and artistic interests. “Dance, French and Canadian-American studies were the student groups we were targeting because their studies are directly related, but anyone who wants to attend is welcome, they might find a tie to their studies,” said Stahl.

On Friday, May 5, the company will present a lecture/demonstration called “Decoding Dance.” This event may be particularly interesting to those intrigued by physical performance, but unsure exactly what is going on when watching a dance concert. Both of these events will take place at Western’s downtown dance space, Ving!, located at 311 E. Holly Street. Both events are free and begin at 6 pm.

“I always want to encourage students to take advantage of the opportunities they have to experience new things, new ideas, new cultures, new art forms—while they’re here,” said Stahl. “Once you graduate, it’s more difficult to fit that into your life. I don’t know if people appreciate that enough, while they’re here.” This residency provides a fantastic occasion to involve yourself in a cultural, artistic dialogue with expert, international dance artists. Enjoy!

For more information on the residency, visit the dance program’s website at www.wwu.edu/depts/dance. These events are funded in part by the ACUSUS Fund for the Arts, with the support of the International Academic Relations Division of Foreign Affairs Canada.