Musculus Mundi showcases Davida Monk’s final work as artistic director of Dancers’ Studio West

Running this weekend —July 19 to 21 —at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Dancers’ Studio West’s 2018 Dance Action Lab will present four pieces by three choreographers collectively entitled Musculus Mundi, or Muscle of the World. Davida Monk has been at the helm of DSW as its artistic director for the past 10 years, and will be moving on following this performance as DSW welcomes new AD Sasha Ivanochko.

Monk describes Musculus Mundi as taking its initial inspiration from the poem Crows by Mary Oliver, and explains, “We have borrowed her notion of the muscle of the world and used it as a way to express the evocative power of contemporary dance.”

Monk is an inspiring artist to talk to, and is able to put into words the physical process that goes into the contemporary dance performances to which our reactions can be so visceral. She speaks of a creative process that begins with the creation of a movement vocabulary that can explore the territory she wishes to investigate, then develops the work with the dancers such that they embody tensions that are evocative, suggestive and poetic, finally performing it with the intention of stimulating the imagination and entrancing the audience.

Monk choreographed the piece in the show entitled The Heart of Ringing, which is a line taken from the poem The Bells by Adam Zagajewski. In the piece, she found inspiration in humans’ long and profound history with bells, be it for solemn occasions, alarms, or other rituals. In the piece she draws specifically from Oliver’s poem: “I embrace the connection Oliver makes to the crow as a source of movement vocabulary so that it may serve the dancers as a vehicle of transformation. I want to express the kinship we share with all life, and acknowledge that connection as the very origin of dance.”

Monk is using an entirely metallic score by British composer Natasha Barrett, and has incorporated pieces of steel into the set that also ring like bells and make beautiful sounds. While the title centres around bells, another inspiration that weaves its way into the movement vocabulary of the piece is that of crows. These two disparate elements, crows and bells, come together in the performance to explore the connections human beings have with all life, and what we discover about ourselves through our observations of and relationships with these other energies.

The Dance Action Lab in which the pieces in this show were developed is a DSW program that gives choreographers a company of dancers to work with over eight weeks. The company includes veteran dancers and choreographers, as well as emerging artists from DSW’s Lab Emerging Artist Program (LEAP) and Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dancers.

Musculus Mundi also features a new work each by choreographers Helen Husak and Linnea Swan, as well as a commission choreographed by Husak and performed by Monk. With costumes by the talented Angela Dale, Musculus Mundi will be a fantastic opportunity to see some of Calgary’s top contemporary dance choreographers at work, as well as give a proper send off to Monk as she has both choreographing and dancing credits in the show.

Decompress into your air-conditioned seat, and let your imagination run away with you.

Musculus Mundi runs July 19, 20, and 21st at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. Tickets are available at

Christine Armstrong is an arts enthusiast who has spent her career in the arts sector as a community-builder, program coordinator, educator, researcher, publicist, strategist, general manager, fundraiser, and more! She’s currently keeping busy raising her two kids and sitting on the board of the National Arts Centre Foundation.