Dance Preview: Shiny Happy People

Finally, hip-hop, ballet and traditional highland dance can all come together in a setting that isn’t a zany sitcom about differences making people special. Started in 1969, the University of Calgary dance department’s Dance Montage is exactly what its name implies–an eclectic smattering of dance styles and influences all brought together by 10 choreographers and over 100 dancers. The result is one of the department’s biggest productions of the year, and certainly its most spectacular.

“What we have is essentially 10 pieces put on and choreographed by different people,” says Dawn Diamond, the coordinator behind Dance Montage. “They’re just long enough to give people a sense for that particular dance style, but still leave them wanting more.”

The people involved in Montage are as varied as the performance itself. Including everyone from first-timers to seasoned pros, Dance Montage sets out every year to recognize the achievements within Calgary’s dance community, and showcase its ever-burgeoning talent.

“It’s about bringing people together to celebrate dance at all levels,” says Diamond. “I would even say the audience is [as varied as the performers]. We get a lot of audience people simply because Montage is a lot like a festival. You don’t have to study dance or understand dance to enjoy what’s on stage.”

With its audience growing every year, Montage has effectively broken the for-dancers-only stereotype that clings to dance shows like a tightly-laced corset. Selling out the Friday and Saturday of its run in most years, the performance has proven with the numbers that they really do have something for everyone.

“Surprisingly enough, while we advertise it in a lot of different places, most of our audience hear about it from word of mouth,” says Diamond. “I really think it has a mass appeal to it, just because of the way it is set up. It’s produced and put on through the university, but it’s also very rooted in the community. It’s a huge deal, and it’s a great connection to the drama community, the dance community and the greater community as a whole.”

Its diverse nature forces Dance Montage to set itself apart each year from previous performances, but for the same reason, it’s constantly at the risk of becoming a sundry affair. With the way things have shaped up this year, however, inconsistency is the last thing audiences have to worry about.

“There definitely is an overall sense of cohesion,” says Diamond. “I will say that this year it’s definitely a feeling of community. We’ve got one of the largest casts we’ve ever had, but even still, we’ve had most of them mingling and getting together. This year, I’d say it’s really about community and sharing.”

Each year, the show absorbs more dancers and choreographers from the community, growing ever larger. At this rate, Dance Montage will soon be a mighty thing to behold, and mortals shall tremble at its mention, as though its name carried the power of Thor’s untold rage. Also, there will likely be dance fighting.

“[Dance Montage] draws people in, and maybe shows them that they’re able to really enjoy dance,” says Diamond. “It opens doors.”

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