Dance Preview: You can dance if you want to

By Kristin McVeigh

You’re driving along in your car, and your favourite song comes on the radio. You just can’t help it, you start to boogie. You’re dancing like crazy. You look over into the next car and see a man doing another kind of boogie. You both look away, ashamed by your actions. Michèle Moss tells us not to be ashamed, for you are not some weirdo dancing in your car, you are a dancer.

Moss has lived a dancer’s life since the age of three, when her mother put her in dance classes in England.

“There was a lot of dance in elementary schools there, it was a long and strong tradition,” she explains.

Now, after 44 years of dance, Moss has accomplished what most dancers could only dream of. Co-founder of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Moss has gone from student to professional dancer and back as a student of the concept of dance. The U of C alumnus is currently studying dance; more specifically, the experience of dancers with the art form. Her show, Why Dance?, is a visual representation of this research. The show serves to both inform the public on the study and act as an entertaining dance show.

“The show features what I call autobiographical portraits of the dancers, where they answer ‘Why Dance?’” Moss explains. “There is very little talking in the show, it’s mostly just straight up read this dance, and the audience has to do their work which is interpret.”

According to Moss’ philosophy, everyone is a dancer. Keeping true to this adage, the show features mostly recreational dancers from the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Studio. “I found there were a lot of extremely dedicated recreational dancers,” she says. “There was a time you wouldn’t give them the label of dancers unless they were professional.”

The idea of “professional dancer” is divided in our culture where dance isn’t a part of everyday life as it is in some of the areas the world. Moss’ studies have taken her to different areas including, most recently, Guinea, West Africa and Cuba. In these locations Moss has observed a prominent difference in their use of dance.

“Are they more human?” She asks, leaving a hint at what the answer might be. “More connected? More capacity for compassion, celebrate, move together, is that better? One can only hope that we can move towards that.”

All hope is not lost for dancers here in Canada. If Moss believes everyone is a dancer, then the possibility for dance is everywhere.

“I was recently at a wedding and I could have made a movie about the dance floor,” she remarks. “The uncle from the prairies was cooking and loving it! And people’s reaction was wonderful. It doesn’t have to be so formal, just dance in the kitchen with your three-year-old.”

This refreshing look at dancing will be reflected in Why Dance? as well; at the end there will be a banquet with the dancers where people can chat about the show.

“I wanted to avoid the post show questions between people of ‘did you like it?,’ ‘I don’t know, I didn’t get it,’” Moss explains.

Moss hopes her show will have a profound impact on her audience. Not only can audiences come and watch her study in action, but if all goes well they’ll learn to study their own inner dancers.

“I believe in the dancing body and I know it can be transformative,” she says. “I think it can be for anybody. Why wouldn’t we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of the knowledge of our own bodies to get to know ourselves better? I think that would be a very worthy pursuit.”

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