American Realness

Dana Michel

Yellow Towel

April 2 & 3, Les Subsistances, Lyon, France
April 8 & 9, Centre national de la danse, Pantin, France
April 23 & 13, Théâtre Garonne, Toulouse, France

As a child, Dana Michel would drape a yellow towel on her head in an attempt to emulate the blonde girls at school. As an adult, she now revisits the imaginary world of her alter-ego in a performative ritual free of cover-ups or censorship. Blending austerity and absurdity, she digs into black culture stereotypes, turning them inside out to see whether or not she can relate. We witness her allowing a strange creature to emerge from this excavation in a slow and disconcerting metamorphosis that we follow with fascination.

Enfant, Dana Michel coiffait ses cheveux d’une serviette jaune (yellow towel) pour ressembler aux blondinettes de son école. Aujourd’hui, elle revisite son imaginaire enfantin et ressuscite sur scène cet être hybride, monstre né des frustrations et stéréotypes de la culture noire, qu’elle détourne dans une danse tour à tour grave et bouffonne. Peu à peu la créature étrange se métamorphose, le fantasme se dissipe, un être apparaît dans la blancheur dépouillée du plateau… Un fascinant numéro de transformisme chorégraphique, qui révèle les failles d’une société à mesure qu’il dévoile les éclats d’une jeune artiste à suivre.

Yellow Towel was co-produced in Montréal by Festival TransAmériques and Studio 303 and was developed through residencies at Compagnie Marie Chouinard, M.A.I., Usine C, Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique, Studio 303 , Agora de la Danse and Le Chien Perdu (Brussels). The creation of Yellow Towel was additionally supported by Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, Canada Council for the Arts, Cirque du Soleil Cultural Action program and M.A.I.. Dana Michel receives development and administrative support from Daniel Léveillé danse (Montréal, Canada) as part of its sponsorship project.
Photos by Ian Douglas

choreography, performance, set and costume design by Dana Michel
lighting design by Karine Gauthier
artistic advisors Ivo Dimchev, Peter James, Mathieu Léger, Antonija Livingstone & Manolis Tsipos
sound consultant David Drury
executive producer Marie-Andreé Gougeon for Daniel Léveillé danse
production assistants Heidi Louis & Chad Dembski
coproduction Festival TansAmériques & Studio 303
creative residencies Compagnie Marie Chouinard + MAI + Le Chien Perdu (Brussels) + Usine C + Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique + Studio 303 + Agora de la Danse
with the support of OF Conseil des Arts et des Lettres de Quebec + Canada Council for the Arts + Cirque du Soleil Cultural Action program + MAI
administrative support Daniel Léveillé danse company (Montréal, QC) as part of its touring sponsorship project
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, May 24, 2013

*merci to the fta and to studio 303 for the nice big push.  to my hand-holders/mind-spankers/idea-helper-to-makers: mathieu, peter, ivo, antonija, manolis, karine – yes. thank you darlings. a very special thank you to david drury, michael MAI toppings, silvy panet-raymond and yves sheriff for their additional advice, support and insight. a very very special thank you to my way more than just production assistants, heidi louis and chad dembski.  a ridiculously large thank you to the little person who somehow seems very at the origin and future of yellow towel, mr. roscoe michel.

Dana Michel (choreographer/performer) is a choreographer and performer based in Montreal, Canada. Before studying contemporary dance at Concordia University in her late twenties, she was a marketing executive, competitive runner and football player. In 2011, She had the honour of being a danceWEB scholarship recipient, allowing her to deepen her research process at ImPulsTanz in Vienna, Austria. Her work has toured through North America (Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Salt Lake City and New York City) and Europe (Austria, Belgium, Serbia & Switzerland) over the past six years.  Dana’s work has garnered numerous awards including the Montreal Fringe Festival “Best Dance Production” in 2005, the Globe and Mail’s “Best Emerging Choreographer” in 2006, and a “Top Ten Choreographers” listing by the Montreal Mirror newspaper in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The film version of her solo the greater the weight won the jury prize for the best performance at the InShadow International Festival of Video, Performance and Technologies in Lisbon.   Michel’s newest solo, Yellow Towel, premiered at the Festival TransAmériques in Montreal to critical acclaim and featured on the “Top Five” and the “Top Ten” dance moments in the Voir newspaper (Montreal) and Dance Current Magazine (Canada) respectively.  “Michel… is a killer soloist who tackles the warped, frenetic and fierce rhythms of her piece with precision and fiery authority…” (Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody (NYC), 2007)

“Michel embarks on a performance that is richly textured, full of nuance and shift: this is a study of a human soul. When she does speak with words the sentences are dotted with random thoughts that seem like external manifestations of internal monologue and dialogue. She’s working on the detail of the sound, how to stress a word, the meaning of the rhythm of what’s said. It’s fascinating territory.”
By Philip Szporer, The Dance Current, Published May 31, 2013

“Unflinchingly, Dana Michel offers an abrasive, edgy performance in Yellow Towel. Using lifetimes of black social isolation, withdrawal and imagination, she lures you in. It’s a gut punch steeped in stereotypes of black culture, echoing imbalance and a lively contrariness, and infused with attitude. Michel is making work like nobody else.” 
By Philip Szporer, The Dance Current, Published December 16 2013

“Yellow Towel is weird, insightful and hilarious without resorting to predictable contrivances. It achieves a state of imbalance that is revelatory.”
By Alex Lazaridis, Real Time Arts, Published July 2013

“The performer is prodigious in this tragico-burlesque portrait in which her out-of-tune body is developed in a series of tableaux that let meaning emerges from slowness. This show is very personal and deliciously funny in an offbeat way. It confirms the talent of an artist who refuses to compromise and dares to invent her own language.” (translated)
By Philippe Couture and Elsa Pépin, Voir Montreal, Published May 31 2013

“At the premiere of this courageous performance, the public was very receptive, some spectators seeming however to be somewhat astounded by these uncharted grounds. But all can learn to interpret this abstract language. Dana Michel reaches for an essence that is inherently primal to human beings and that everyone can relate to. The first viewers of Jackson Pollock’s paintings must have had a similar feeling; the impression of being in front of the explosion of an incredible new movement.” (translated)
By Ariane Cloutier, Mon(theatre), Published May 26 2013