Careers in Motion: Meghann Michalsky, BA’14

In our series, Careers in Motion, we bring you interviews with alumni who are innovators, thought leaders and experts in their field. Someone to watch for is contemporary dancer Meghann Michalsky, BA’14, who recently snagged the 2019 RBC Emerging Artist Award at the Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions, held in March with a sold-out audience of 650 Calgarians. Each Legacy Artist Award receives a $5,000 cash prize, which Michalsky intends to use to help finance a dance-training tour of Montreal, Europe and Israel this summer.

By Deb Cummings

 

Why do you love to dance?
I love to perform because it’s the only time when my mind is completely present. Being able to dive so deep into characters that you “become” them for the duration of the show is very satisfying. 

What are the top three lessons you learned at UCalgary? 
In terms of dance quality — Don’t be good, be honest; passion, commitment and hard work can surpass natural talent; how to think critically about choreography and craft.

What do you miss most about being a student?
I miss having the luxury of being able to focus on one thing: my art. Now, just like most freelance artists in Calgary, I need to have part-time jobs to support my art. There are perks and challenges to this, but balancing a dance artist’s workload requires full-time hours and finding additional income in other sectors to survive is the reality.

What are the opportunities for a career in dance? 
In Calgary, all independent contemporary dance artists/companies run on a project-to-project basis. In the last few years, I’ve found there to be lots of momentum in Calgary with many artists producing work for festivals or self-producing, which creates lots of opportunities for dancers. During this time, I was blessed to work closely with kloetzel&co., Dancers’ Studio West, Dancing Monkey Laboratories, Cloudsway Dance Theatre and J-SIK Movements. I’ve also been lucky to find the opportunity to present my choreography at the Annual Alberta Dance Festival, Dancefest @ Nextfest, Convergence, Project InTandem and Fluid Festival. 

If you could dance with any troupe to any song on any stage, what would that look like?
I used to dream about only dancing for one company, Hofesh Shechter; I think they are incredible. But now, going into my fifth year of freelancing, I love it and I don’t think I would change it. I enjoy having multiple contracts with many different artists each year. It makes every month very different, and it also gives me space for my own choreographic practice. I don’t think I would of have grown as much as I have in this amount of time as a choreographer if I wasn’t freelancing.

Who are your favourite dancers or companies?
Hofesh Shechter, Frédérick Gravel, Ultima Vez, Anouk van Dijk, Rubberband, Tentacle Tribe and DV8.

When did you start dancing? 
I started dancing when I was three years old at Caroline Dance West in Caroline, Alta. — a town of 500 people. 

Do you have any advice for new grads of dance?
After coming out of academia, I would suggest meeting the community as fast as you can. Go to shows, go to technique class, ask other artists to meet you for coffee and talk to artists after shows/classes. There are rarely auditions in Calgary, so ask artists if there are opportunities coming up and that you’re interested in their work. Or, try teaming up with your former classmates to continue creating work for each other that could be presented at emerging festivals. Another idea is that, if you see a void in the dance community, ask how you can fill it or how can you offer something new to something that already exists. And don’t forget the power of mentors — a good mentor will push you to become a better artist when times are tough and when times are good.

What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you? 
Being born into a family who supports my dreams. Other key relationships with mentors and support organizations have made a big difference to where I am today: Mike Czuba [MFA’11], Davida Monk, Jason Galeos [BA’12], Oliver Reyes, W&M Dance Projects — Artist support program and U of C Dance Alumni Residency program.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? 
Travel abroad alone. 

What books are you reading these days?
Right now, I am reading a book about Vipassana Meditation, Why Buddhism is True, by Robert Wright. And Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. 
 

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