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At 23, Ottawa-born Dana Michel was working in marketing by day and going to raves at night. She soon moved to Montreal for the electronic music scene and, two years later, enrolled in contemporary dance at Concordia University. In 2013 her breakout solo show Yellow Towel, which uses unconventional choreography to tackle racial stereotypes, earned her critical acclaim. This month, her follow-up piece Mercurial George will make its Midwest premiere in Minneapolis. We caught up with her after a whirlwind European tour.

Dana Michel

What kind of packer are you?
The women in my family are master packers, and the tradition was passed down to me. I roll and pack in cubes so I can easily see everything I bring. It’s like dresser drawers to go.

Where’s your favourite place to perform?
Helsinki – the Finns are looser and laugh more easily, and I got a similar reaction in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I’ve noticed a connection with audiences in cold places. My work has this Canadian expansiveness to it – it’s spacious and slow-moving – and those qualities leave room for audience response.

What’s your routine on the road?
I make my hotel room feel like home even if I’m only there for one night. I rearrange furniture, set up my products on the nightstand, hide the TV with the runner from the foot of the bed and sometimes ask for an extra lamp. I hate overhead lighting.

You cut your long hair before you started performing Mercurial George. What prompted that decision?
When I had my son, it quickly became a burden, so I shaved it off. However, it’s a central part of the Yellow Towel performance, so I had a wig made from my own locks that I take on tour with me. It was very expensive and it’s definitely the weirdest thing I travel with.



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