Mélanie Demers's Junkyard/Paradis: Wonderful wasteland

Wonderful wasteland

Junkyard/Paradis dances out of the dark
Photo: Larry Dufresne

Mélanie Demers's Junkyard/Paradis finds hope in life's constant contradictions

If heaven and hell aren’t too far apart in Mélanie Demers’s evocative Junkyard/Paradis, then purgatory can’t be far behind, can it? The socially charged and philosophically tinged title alludes to Demers’s journey toward reconciling duality – wading through debris and waste can lead us to the brink of disintegration, or our enchantment with life can eclipse its horrors.

Demers, artistic director of Mayday, exudes energy and goodwill, even as she talks about the unnerving balance between love and hate that defines some relationships, and how crossing the line between the beauty of humankind and its misery can trip all of us up.

"The premise of this work reconciles the contradictions of life," she says. "No one is sheltered from a fall." The piece, as she describes it, captures the fierce sways in emotion and situation that can shake the foundations of a person’s existence. Demers’s physicality rips through this volatile terrain to expose the darkest stripes of our collective soul.

Informed by her background in dance, theatre and literature, Demers has performed and taught far and wide, amidst serious obstacles, in places like Kenya, Niger and Haiti. Consciousness is her passion, but activism isn’t a starting point for creative work: "I want to engage people in my dialogue; it’s not a soapbox."

Improvisation fuels her creative process and she isn’t shy about digging into strong emotions when working with her dancers (here Angie Cheng, Brianna Lombardo, Nicolas Patry and Jacques Poulin-Denis, who’s also the composer). "The dancers have created their own scores," she says. "It’s a bit like jazz. I propose themes, but each role is made to measure."

While nothing may be what it seems, at the core of everything Demers does, as a person and an artist, is hope. On the stage of shattered dreams, the inspired choreographer is calm. "We don’t touch paradise enough," she says.

Junkyard/Paradis

At Agora de la Danse (840 Cherrier), until Jan. 29

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