DEVELOPING ARTISTS GRANTS
2013 Grant Recipient
Contemporary Dance Winner
Edmonton, AB native Melissa Watt is a 21-year-old student who will complete her final year of the Professional Training Program at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. A graduate of the Victoria School for the Arts, Melissa has participated in numerous summer training intensives and master classes, as well as having received training in film and video work, music, pilates and yoga.
In submitting the nomination for The Hnatyshyn Foundation contemporary dance grant, the School of Toronto Dance Theatre artistic staff said of Melissa, “…the faculty is unanimous in choosing her as an outstanding young artist with tremendous potential for a distinguished career in performance. This young artist definitely has the potential for a stellar career in dance, as well as the capacity to influence the art form of contemporary dance through her stature as an interpreter.”
In adjudicating Melissa’s performance submissions, the jury for contemporary dance commented, “Melissa is a talented dancer; her potential resonated in performance through the choreography presented in her video. There is an innate sensitivity to her quality of expression and understanding of movement.” “She got me totally interested in her dance; it tells strange stories… she must be enough at ease with her technique that we are allowed to find something more of what is in her dance.” “I was compelled by the artistic statement and felt that it asked great questions and contextualized her interests well within her current community.”
The jury included:
• Alvin Erasga Tolentio, Company Erasga Dance
• Louise Lecavallier, Fou glorieux
• Michael Trent, Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer,
Dancemakers and the Centre for Creation.
Dance is something that resonates deeply with me and fills my spirit with life and an indescribable spark. Each day I feel a new emotion, see a new perspective, or encounter a new sensation. My experiences in dance have shaped the person I am today and continue to facilitate immense personal growth. I know that when I am dancing, I am truly alive.
Coming into my first year at my current school, I had a predominantly technical background in dance. After having the opportunity to explore my passion for creation, I see that my entire mindset towards the art of dance has grown. Artistically, I am able to create an experience for myself in class and in performance. Before my training here, I would often come off stage not understanding or recalling the experience I had just encountered over the last three to five minutes, but now I am able to be present in the world that my peers and I create together onstage; I am able to identify sensations, energies, and the environment around me while completing my choreographic tasks. This awareness has enabled me to begin asking questions such as: how do I include the audience in these experiences? What approaches allow me to establish a strong relationship with the viewers? These types of questions have inspired me to write regularly in reflection and begin making new discoveries. I feel that my appreciation and understanding for the deep art form that is dance have matured greatly, opening my mind and soul to the bigger picture of dance.
Networking with other dance artists, especially those in the profession, has given me great inspiration and insight. Verbal communication has not always been a strong point for me; however, learning to ask questions directly and have discussions has allowed me to not only stay current on the many directions of dance, but has opened me up to sharing with other people, whether that be with another dancer onstage, an audience member, or a full house. Knowing that I am impacting what another person experiences is inspiring for me, as it allows for such a unique exchange between two lives.
I also draw inspiration from work that illustrates development in contemporary dance, like that of Aszure Barton. I find the content of her work to be innovative, stimulating, and an inspiration for choreographic tasks I embark on myself. The works of William Forsythe display similar innovation, having reshaped the ways in which ballet is practised. In Canada, I see these concepts being applied in works by Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie. It is inspiring to see such inventive, contemporary movement evolving in our community.
My hope is to always remain a student in the sense that I never stop investigating my own training and finding something new to factor into my dancing each day. I will continue to strive for accomplishment in creation and communication through the physicality of movement. I also intend to delve into other art forms and discover their potential relationships with dance, particularly film and video. I see this exploration one day leading me deep into choreography and composition. For now though, the physicality of dance is what I crave the most. Moving through space and feeling as though my body moves harmoniously with the smallest of particles around me makes me feel so connected with the vast world. Above all, I intend to share my experiences with each audience I perform in front of through pure, physical movement and passion, and in turn, I hope to contribute to the ever evolving world of dance.