Dancing like a pro

The show University of Calgary dance students have been waiting for all year is fast approaching: Mainstage Dance 2013. This performance gives U of C dance students the chance to work with professional choreographers, preparing them for the rigour and challenge that comes with a career as a professional dancer.

Mainstage Dance 2013 will be performed from March 14–16 at the University Theatre, with tickets available for free for U of C students through the Claim Your Seat program. Dancers this year were choreographed by faculty members Michèle Moss, Wojciech Mochniej and Melissa Monteros, along with guest choreographer Tania Alvarado. Moss explains that Mainstage Dance has been an important part of the U of C’s dance department for decades, helping countless students get ready for careers as professional dancers.

“We’re not quite sure how long it has been going on, but it has been over 30 years, maybe closer to 40,” says Moss. “I performed in Mainstage from 1980–84, and I know a bit of the event’s history because I lived it. It is a good opportunity for students to work with faculty who are also working professionals and creators.”

Moss says that the students are treated like professionals during the preparation for this show, and that they are expected to work like professionals.

“I don’t approach this much differently than my other work,” says Moss. “My expectations are high, and for the most part the students really perform to the best of their ability and where they are in their process of developing their professional careers. I look at them and try to find where their voice is, and the teacher in me also presents challenges for them that I hope will cause them to triumph and ascend.” 

This treatment means that the students are pushed to their limits. Chelci Blais, one of the students choreographed by Alvarado, explains that it is nothing like what they are used to.

“It’s one thing to learn the material, memorize it and put it on stage, and another to actually create that material,” says Blais. “The amount of work it takes is exponentially higher.”

Alvarado, who also choreographed a Mainstage piece in 2008, hopes that her unique style of choreography will help give the students she works with a new perspective on dance.

“My biggest hope for them is for them to learn to work with different choreographers and different processes,” says Alvarado. “My process is quite specific, so it is a huge learning opportunity for them to learn to work this way.” 

Using collaborative methods and improvisation, Alvarado worked closely with her students to develop a piece specifically for them. Chandler Smith, one of these students, says that this experience left its mark.

“It really helped to work with [Alvarado],” says Smith. “She helped me develop my own creative process because she took a different approach to choreographing that I had never seen before. It really helped my growth as a dancer.” 

The chance to perform at Mainstage is one of the most important parts of any dance student’s time at the U of C, and will help set the groundwork for their emerging careers as professional dancers. 

“Many of us have had these pivotal experiences, whether you are performing or playing on a sports team, and they are so powerful,” says Moss.

For other students, Mainstage Dance 2013 presents a different opportunity: the chance to experience an evening of exceptional dancing.

“Dancing is an amazing experience to come and watch because it has a connection to every person,” says Blais. “It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you know, you are going to take something away from this if you come and see it. As a U of C student you get a free ticket, so come support your peers!”