Melissa Monteros’ final Mainstage Dance show a fearless retrospective

Contemporary dance, like many things of the body and the spirit, is sometimes feared and often misunderstood. But for Melissa Monteros, it is through dance that we are able to question, learn, reveal and immerse ourselves through various levels of communication.

Celebrating over a decade of choreographic work presented while on faculty in the Department of Dance at the University of Calgary, Monteros fearlessly directs her final Mainstage Dance show, a retrospective of pieces created between 1995 and 2010. In collaboration with W&M Physical Theatre, the show is presented in two programs, each showcasing three different remounted works by the artist.

With roughly nine alumni and 36 current students, a handful of rehearsal directors, different set designs for each piece, and only one Monteros, this show has been no easy task. The dancers had the challenge of learning movement material off of old videos (and to remind you, some of those videos would have been filmed in the ’90s). There were also more dancers cast for the remount of these pieces than the number that had performed them originally, so the work could not be replicated exactly the same. Despite it all, Monteros praises the efforts of the dancers and is grateful for the experience this has given to current students. “This is an opportunity for (current students) to learn how professional dancers work with the material, what it looks like on a professional dancer, how they approach warming up, learning, reviewing, taking notes.”

One of the challenges facing the contemporary dance community is the resistance towards the art form from audiences. Monteros comments that contemporary dance is “a meeting place between the audience and choreographer that becomes a reflection on where we are as a society. I don’t think it’s the job of art to create diversions for people who just want to be diverted. I think that in the same way that we learn to read Dick & Jane books, we don’t expect to stay at that level of reading forever, and as we get into higher levels of reading there’s so much more available to us in terms of enriching our lives.”

She continues. “It’s the same with music, dance and art, but if you don’t partake of the education, of becoming experienced with those higher levels of reading, then you never get to experience those wonderful books that are out there.”

With that, dip your toes into contemporary dance through Mainstage Dance – and with time, the more contemporary dance you see, the more you’ll find you notice, understand, and appreciate what perhaps you once feared.

Mainstage Dance runs March 14th through 16th at 8 p.m., with a 1 p.m. matinee on March 16th in the University Theatre.

Taylor Ritchie is professional dancer, shaker and mover in Calgary. When she’s not performing or teaching dance, you can find her at many of the local performing arts shows in town