Traditional and modern values collide

By Kara Martens

At its best, dance is a reflection of the human experience. Mainstage 2000, with a range of choreographers and dance techniques, has achieved at least one aspect of the human experience–diversity.

The annual collage put on by the University of Calgary Program of Dance features pieces from five guest and faculty choreographers brought to life by students from the dance program.

Melissa Monteros and Michele Moss are the faculty representatives this year. Moss is also a founder, dancer and instructor at Decidedly Jazz Dance Works and other local dance projects aside from her sessional work at the U of C. Her piece for Mainstage 2000 places 15 dancers in a DJ club mixing African roots, jazz and hip hop.

Monteros, presently head of the dance program, created a theatrical dance piece with a number of symbols and props for the eight dancers.

"There are several metaphors and symbols like the oranges and shoes as symbols of false power. This piece is focused on what is beneath all of that," said Monteros.

She hopes to reveal the more natural and relevant self that dwells beneath the trappings which consume many of us.

"That’s not the real stuff; the pounding of shoes, the wearing of clothes, the talking the talk, and walking the walk. I want people to recognize the symbols of the things that are the things that get in the way."

Monteros spends most of her research time performing and creating in Europe.

In 1995, she established Poland’s second contemporary dance company, Dance Theatre of Gdansk which brought her together with Wojciech Mochniej.

Mochniej’s background started as a street dancer, which led him to become a founding member of Poland’s first contemporary dance company, Slaski Teatr Tanca. He travelled across North America dancing and learning with a number of teachers. He is now Artistic Director of the company Monteros founded.

Mochniej’s piece relates a frustration in the universal changing of culture that affects many of us daily. He feels the introduction of technology has left many traditional values by the way side.

"It is universal in this kind of speed up and technological development we miss things like family and tradition," said Mochniej. Using folk music in the first half of the piece and modern industrial music for the second, Mochniej hopes to contrast the values of the past with those of the present.

"It is about bumping cultures. We would all like to connect with tradition but the speed of things gets in the way."

The other choreographers are Tonya Lochyer of Seattle and Laurie Montemmuro, a modern dance teacher at the Alberta Dance School and Decidedly Jazz Dance Works.

Above all, the choreographers hope that their pieces provoke thought and cause the audience to reflect on their own lives.

"People don’t talk about performances here. Our expectation of dance in this culture is to entertain not something that should be analyzed," said Monteros. She encourages people to approach her to discuss her piece after the performance.

"They can understand from the place that they are coming from and it is useful for us to learn. It is not important at all that they see what I intended. I want them to come away with a sense of seeing and feeling the performers as individuals and connecting to them."

Mainstage 2000 is held at the University Theatre at 8 p.m. Mar. 16-18. Tickets are available at the Campus Ticket Centre and at the door.

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