Place and Displaced: Blog Post #4

I live today in a land that can show me blazing blue skies and temperatures that cause sunburn on the skin of my lighter family,  give rise to annoying brown splotches on my skin, and then, within 12 hours,  can shift to snow-covered earth and trees and a winter wonderland.  I am someone who has learned to adapt quickly but also to love change.

I have learned, because of my adopted home, what it means to long for those first signs of spring, to wait for the buds to form on the trees, to run outdoors optimistically in shorts and sandals at the first signs of the temperature rising above zero.

I also know what it is to be seen as an ‘other’.  In Southern California, when my sister’s very blond children were small and I was with them in the yard or out shopping, it was often that neighbors and others thought I was the nanny or the cleaning woman.  At the university, I was the only brown person in our Faculty of Fine Arts for years.  As I leave this year, I am one of 2.  My spouse came to Canada from Europe and has struggled (successfully) with a new language, new social norms, and changing expectations.  We have both missed our families, watching them change and grow without our daily presence.  We have missed the foods, the sounds, the rhythms of our homeland while carving out our own way and adopting with great joy and pride what we see as the dominant Canadian ideals and values; diversity, tolerance, social responsibility, social justice, abiding by the rules, as well as a fierce love of hockey, and at least rudimentary knowledge of what curling is.  It was here I learned to stop patiently for pedestrians, to say good morning to others on our walks, to know what it is to live in a community when the expectation of ‘nice’ is the norm and not the exception.

I think a lot about the immigration problems south of our border; the changes in culture, language, the socio-economic shift, the expectations and disappointments of those who arrive, the resentment of those who experience changes they don’t like or understand in their communities.  I think of people from warm lands arriving in Canada and wondering, as I did, what is a block heater?  What?  My hair can freeze when I go outside with it wet?  The ground is still frozen in April and I can’t plant outside?  And the changing definitions of family and familial roles? All these changes of the environment come so quickly…less than a 14-hour flight and everything known and familiar has changed.   I often wonder if we were meant to travel this quickly.

I have written often about our artistic work that “our voices are not blended but are intertwined…like the ampersand symbol “&” wrapped around each other, two voices distinct but on a journey together”.  This is how I see our relationship to our homelands and our Canadian home.  We are Canadian but our old roots are in places very distinct from this one.  Our childhoods were shaped by those lands, but our home here has taught us things we would never have learned there.  It is here, to this vast open sky, that we throw our arms open wide, turn our faces to the sky and sing. 

Place and Displaced: Blog Post #3


We had an opportunity present itself, and in our normal fashion, we followed it impulsively.  Someone had asked to stay in our place for 4 nights while they picked up an airplane at a nearby airfield.  We hesitated but then agreed, thinking it would allow us to do some ‘test shooting’.  There was a route we wanted to try out, searching for locations, and equipment we wanted to become more experienced with.  ‘Just in case’, we threw the suitcase, a large black trunk,  and a costume for me into the car.   That led to a 4-day road trip.   The new project, while the topic stayed the same, featured a lot more of me than I expected. 

We found so much wonderful and terrible beauty in the landscape.  I was making notes and dropping ‘pins’ for each place we found interesting and wanted to return to.  We struggled with difficult terrain, cold wind, drastically changing temperatures.  The suitcase (a metal trunk) weighs a lot when you carry it for hours.  Managing equipment with just the two of us is tough.  Wojtek carries a heavy burden trying to make it easier on me.  We didn’t have a shot sheet but as we arrived at a location we would talk through the possibilities and the juxtaposition of ideas we might try.  We each had specific ideas we wanted to shoot.  Wojtek was trying to edit in his head while he shot.  I was trying to make sure I kept some level of continuity,; which hand the suitcase was in, where I touched a post, what movement I had done if I was moving, remembering to brush my hair which was completely tangled in the high winds. He would show me the framing before each shot.   In the evenings, we reviewed the footage we had shot that day and made the plan for the next day.  I would log the footage and Wojtek would immediately begin editing short teasers (2 minutes) to develop the feel of each segment. 

The teasers give us a chance to talk further about meaning and poetics.  Often, while he lays out the structure, I will search for shots that might work as inserts.  When logging, I grade and categorize the footage, making it easier for us later when we want to make a change.   He spends hours searching for music.  He pays attention to every detail of the edit and we preview it a hundred times.

Our shoots are crazy fun.  Cold, and challenged by the weather but riffing off each other, feeling creative, spontaneous, and completely focussed.  Dirty, tired, cold, and hungry by the end of the day, we enjoy having a beer, grabbing food,  and going immediately into logging and editing. 

The ideas evolve as we work and evolve as we discuss images and potential content.  Life creates snapshots and shot sheets.  We, as we often do as improvisers, come with our research not over but active and alive in us, we respond to what we see, and we build on our collaborative vision. 

Place and Displaced Blog Post #2

I have been a traveler since my early twenties.  I was the first in my family to leave the state of California.  I moved to Seattle to pursue dance.  I studied in Salt Lake City.  I took a teaching job in Wichita, Kansas.  I moved to Canada to work at the University.  I was invited to go to Poland, first as a “cultural specialist” and choreographer for Fulbright Scholar and UCLA professor, Michael Hackett, then as a Fulbright Scholar myself. Through our duet career, Mochniej and I have moved from country to country, challenging ourselves to see our work and ourselves through these changing lenses.  Trying to understand my ‘place’ and my ‘self ‘while moving through and becoming absorbed by these places has been a thread throughout my whole adult life.  The feeling of being ‘displaced’, of what is lost, what is missed,  as well as what is discovered, and the question of what my bones are crying out for is another part of this.

For this reason, the suitcase became an important prop in the development of this new work.  I also wanted to collaborate with other artists who know or feel this concept of “place” and how the land shapes you and your values or way of seeing.  As well,  I wanted to find a connection with other Canadian artists who have traveled to find a new home or have experienced this longing for their ‘place’.

After many long conversations with Wojtek, I’m reaching out, starting conversations with these artists.  I look forward to their insights and to sharing with these creative spirits!

Place and Displaced Process: Blog Post #1

The concept for this work really began many years ago when creating in Finland.  We were on a long drive from Oulu to Pyhäjärvi, and it was a drive of endless forest and water.  I thought, is this where the Finnish ‘quiet’ and ‘peacefulness’ comes from?  From the value and lessons of nature? I suddenly understood how the land, our physical environment, helps to shape us.

Where I come from, a city of concrete and pounding ocean (Los Angeles), I know well the power of the water, the sun on my skin, the crowded streets, and the constantly changing environment.  In Finland, I felt the quiet, the reflection, (and many other things like humor and an amazing ability to listen). 

I miss the sea and its power but also the temperate climate, warm sun on my skin; here in Calgary, my relationship with the weather has radically changed.  I see and often speak with Wojtek about the call of our respective homelands, (his in Poland) though this place (Calgary) is our home now.  Through my many years in Poland, I felt the importance of the complexity of political life, the richness of farmland, the necessity of coal, the management of scarcity of goods, and as I came to understand the language, I understood that language also expresses our values. There is a dramatic shift from city to rural areas in Poland, and strong opinions, emotions, and deep conversations are not avoided. The drama in what the land has experienced is written on the cultural environment.

At the Flow Festival in Warsaw, Poland, I was asked to create a structured improvisational work and I tried to explore these ideas.  When in process, I realized that most of the participants, both senior and emerging artists, did not have the experience of leaving their homeland and trying to adjust to a new land, language, and cultural environment.  Though many had the understanding through the experience of their grandparents, it didn’t translate with significant meaning.   It was interesting to explore which are the events or elements around us that make us feel displaced?  How do we define our ‘place’?

WildDogs: Howls and Cries

As we completed the first WildDogs International Screendance Festival in September 2020, a long dreamed about event for Wojtek and I, we wanted to create a series of smaller events that would help showcase the wonderful screendance works available from many countries, from some amazing artists. In planning our 2nd event, I spoke to my colleague Melanie Kloetzel about the film that she had created with Linnea Swan, MEN in Charge, that related to the US election and other issues that made its screening prior to the US election critical. I thought about the profound impact that some of the films we screened at the WildDogs International Screendance Festival had on me, personally, and wanted to consider how screendance can have a voice that speaks out on social issues. There is something so clear and clean about the body in motion; it speaks volumes without words. (A hint about our next screening event). I had seen other works of Vito Alfarano, an Italian artist, many of which also dealt with topics of social justice, and asked him if I might share I Have a Dream again, and another one of his works in this program. I emailed Kosta and asked if I could share his film, Waiting for Color, in this event, and he agreed. This was how Howls and Cries was born. Once the direction had been established, I spoke to our manager, Calvin Becker, about the voices we wanted to share on the eve of this election and he came back to me with his research; did I know that wolves, when ‘voting’ use a series of howls and calls to communicate? Thus, the title. Each film has a specific voice, and speaks out with passion, as I hope you will see, and the camera treats the body based on the director’s vision. It is an amazing medium, this marriage of dance and the camera, and I am hooked! I hope you will be, too, and will join us for other events this winter and spring!

At the GLOBE CINEMA, November 1, 2020 at 3PM.

Melissa Monteros, Artistic Director

WildDogs on the Road: Honolulu, October 24

Wow! What a hectic and completely rewarding past few months it has been for WildDogs. A big thank you goes to our devoted participants, patrons, and festival team for making the inaugural event a success. We put “International” in WildDogs International Screendance Festival in hopes of bringing together a tight knit global community of screendance artists. After receiving submissions from over 20 different countries, we are happy to say that our expectations were exceeded tenfold. We had the opportunity to host a multitude of stories and cultures from around the world, all sharing the common passion of screendance. It was an eye-opening experience to see a global community of artists come together during unprecedented times to share their stories. If we look closely, art unites, inspires, and most importantly, grounds us during times of uncertainty. As the whole world moves forward into a new normal, we as artists must unite, inspire, and demonstrate the power of art to heal. We must especially support performing arts in schools and universities because the fragility of these programs continues to be tested. At WildDogs, it is our goal to attract a global community of artists who engage and inspire each other to work towards a sustainable future.
WildDogs proudly operates with international bases around the world, making our screendance festival unique, exclusive, and ever-evolving! With successful pop-up screenings in Calgary, AB and Saskatoon, SK, we are eagerly anticipating our Hawaii and Poland premieres this fall. WildDogs participants have the opportunity for their films to be screened in multiple places around the world, which promotes rich dialogue and feedback for the artists. Our pop-up screenings also allow cities with emerging screendance interests to grow their communities and conversations about the art form. Our next screening of WildDogs will take place in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the screendance community is still emerging. It will be held at a wonderful gallery, The ARTS at Marks Garage, on October 24th at 6pm. (  It’s the goal of our festival not only to spark interest in the art form, but also to grow communities of screendance patrons in cities where the conversation is still fresh.

Artist in Residence, W&M

WILDDOGS International Screendance Festival 2020 September 12, 2020. Online event on Sept 13, 2020


Director Sofia Castro, Best in Category: Student Film (tie) ARGENTINA

Director Kosta Karakashyan    Best in Category: Student Film (tie)   UNITED STATES

Director Joseph Gebrael  Best in Category: Special Submissions LEBANON

Director Sebastien de Buyl   Special Selection: Innovation BELGIUM

Directors Elizabeth Shea, Randy Newman, Allen Hahn Official Selection UNITED STATES

Director Fu LE Best in Category: Screendance Short FRANCE

Director Vito Alfarano Special Selection: Artistic Directors’ Choice ITALY

Director Vito Alfarano Official Selection ITALY

Director Cristina Hall, Daniel N. Buxton Official Selection SPAIN

Director Arturo Bandenelli Official Selection IRELAND

Director Nicole Charleton-Goodbrand  CanadianVoice CANADA


SPECIAL JURY MENTIONS: (online event September 13)

A Mysterious Road
Director Peng Hsiao-yin
Special Jury Mention TAIWAN

About Inertia, Director
Tom Tsai
Special Jury Mention USA

The Woman, Director, Monica Field Special Jury Mention USA

In Passing
Anne Verheij Special Jury Mention UK

Submitter Doke Pauwels
Special Jury Mention SOUTH AFRICA

Keepers of the Rock
Director Zoe Abrigo
Special Mention: Student Film USA

SHON KIM Special Jury Mention Republic of SOUTH KOREA

Video Project #State
Director Daniel Navaro Lorenzo
Special Jury Mention UK

Director Good John
Special Jury Mention AUSTRALIA


CANADIAN VOICES (online event)

Listen,  Can You Hear Me Now?
Director Alyssa Maturino
                                                                Calgary, Alberta

Hila,  Director Adam Bentley                                                          Edmonton, Alberta

A Practical Guide to Serenity
Director Reese Wilson
   Calgary, Alberta

Director Simon Alteen
                                                                       Toronto, Ont. and St. Johns, NF

Hidden Hands
Director Meghann Michalsky
                                                          Calgary, Alberta

Ho.Me, Director Carolin Bergonzoni                                            Vancouver, BC                                            (unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations)

The Next Waves
Director Tessa Leier    Special Mention: Student Film              Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


Surviving the Field

Surviving the Field

Written by : Melissa Monteros

Okay, is this happening to anyone else?

I’m losing my mind trying to keep up with all the roles required of me to create and present artistic work.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean this as a complaint but more as an observation. I have always been a fierce worker that dedicates all of my waking hours to my work as an artist, but lately, I am tied to my computer for 12 or more hours a day.

When I’m lucky, I spend two to four hours in the studio (on those same days), which is a luxury! How is this sustainable for an artist? It isn’t! So what to do about this? How do I devise a strategy to survive this? My answer is to go back to my roots and remember the words a friend said to me, “Just do your work, the rest will follow.” And yet, here I sit, at a computer again to reflect on making and presenting work today.

The Professional Series is a part of the University of Calgary’s Division of Dance season. It focuses on the presentation of work by established artists. This year it is a three-weekend festival focusing on creative connection and collaboration between visiting international artists from Poland and Austria.

To bring this year’s version of the Professional Series together, I have been the general manager, travel agent, production assistant, rehearsal director, costume consultant and more. But I know I need to do this because it is a chance for us, the W&M Physical Theatre, to share the work of some of our international colleagues from Poland and Austria with Calgary audiences. It is also an opportunity to work on a new creation, WE_SELLE.PL , in front of an audience, allowing us to work out our ideas and present and discuss them with a live audience before we premiere the work in Poland.

The departure point of our new creation is the Polish play Wesele (The Wedding), a defining work from the turn of the century (1901) by Stanisław Wyspiański. Our take on it begs a comparison to the current political climate in Poland. Wesele has had a tremendous influence on Polish culture with its deeply Polish symbolism addressing political corruption and the clash between the classes. At this wedding, the guests, who symbolize the nation, waste away their chance at national freedom. They continue dancing “the way it’s played for them” (a Polish folkloric proverb) like puppets, failing in their ultimate mission.

It is a play of corruption and folly, and a fun way to explore the huge shifts in politics taking place today.

Back to my roots and how they have helped me to survive. Yes, Los Angeles, where I was born and lived the first 35 years of my life. Yes, to my roots and experiences in the contrasting life I discovered in Poland in 1991, where I found a place for my true artistic voice.  Let me share some of what I carry with me from those experiences.

Seven things to know about every Polish artist I have worked with:

  • They are as serious about art as they are about social welfare and politics
  • They are almost as serious about either vodka or cigarettes (or both) as they are about art
  • They know their theatre history
  • Status or acknowledgement matter desperately, or not at all
  • The stars are rich, the rest are broke
  • Interdisciplinary is the natural state of their work and I never hear that word spoken there
  • They believe that artists make a difference

What do I love about Poland? 

  • Artists are not afraid to be intense. The Poland I have known best, existed through the early 90s and the first decade of the millennium. Life wasn’t easy there and art, social welfare and politics had real meaning.
  • The expectation is that art strives to have an impact. While the idea that art is entertainment has gained ground in the last decade, it has not replaced the long history of work that held that theatre, and art generally, were designed to speak the truth.
  • Audiences are experienced in viewing and discussing art
  • Young people come to the theatre and talk about it with you after!

Seven things to know about Southern California:

  • It is so beautifully warm, and the ocean so near, that you can forget all of the things that are wrong with it.
  • There were orange groves everywhere when I walked (yes, alone) to school as a child
  • Spanish is spoken almost as often as English and it there is great diversity in the population
  • You can find spectacular fruits and vegetables all year
  • Your winter wardrobe are closed shoes and a light jacket
  • Edgy artistic work is thriving but completely on the fringes
  • Not driving is not an option

What do I love about Southern California?

See above.

All of the above serve me as a survival guide. I arm myself with these memories to keep me focused on who I am as an artist and as the basis of my artistic impulse. The passion, intensity and belief that art matters from Poland together with the release and ‘let go” attitude of California and the multi-cultural environment it embraces, allows me to thrive and drives my work and the importance of the constantly-changing political environment of both. So when I want to complain about the many roles required of me, I remember to be grateful for the broad base of skills I have acquired and to keep my intensity without apology. I celebrate the possibilities I have to work as an artist. I treasure both the challenges and the support that have come my way. And I remember my roots.

melissa headshot

MELISSA MONTEROS is the Artistic Director of W&M Physical Theatre, which she founded in 1994 with Wojciech Mochniej. She has been a guest teacher and performer for dance companies, universities and festivals in Europe and North America, and her artistic work is informed by her frequent collaborations with international artists. She was a Fulbright Award recipient to Poland and is named in the Report on Contemporary Dance for the Congress on Polish Culture (2009) for her contributions to contemporary dance. With Mochniej, her work has been seen in Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Canada. Monteros is a Professor at the University of Calgary in the School of Creative and Performing Arts and Chair of the Division of Dance.

Canadian Dance Assembly-Calgary Conference

The presence of the Canadian Dance Assembly in Calgary has been an opportunity to join a dialogue that reaches across the country.  Too often,  the conversations focus on the centers east and west, with the rest of the country described as ‘regions’ which from the outset seems to make it a situation of ‘us’ and ‘them’.   I am an artist who lives in Calgary and I love my home here.  However, I don’t think of myself as a ‘prairie artist’ (the prairies as a location and/or natural environment are not featured in my work) and I resist the idea that anyone would categorize me as such.  I wonder if it is possible to find a way to support artists who may be less visible nationally without separating them from the rest of the country.

In our own community in Calgary, my observation is that we are often unaware of the kind of work and initiatives that go on around us, or if we are aware, we allow it to continue unacknowledged.  I was surprised to find W&M not just unmentioned in our brief community profile but lumped into a description of “several small dance companies”.  When space was brought up, C-space was mentioned but W&M again, was not, though it is the rehearsal base for a number of the artists who were in the room.  DSW was only mentioned briefly as having a festival.  Both of these organizations have been making huge contributions to the milieu for decades.  They both work from mid-range operating budgets.  I looked around the room and realized that of our Calgary cohort in attendance, close to half have been supported through W&M programming; as dancers, choreographers, through workshops and education, or by utilizing subsidized space for their projects.  I watched Melanie Kloetzel do months of work collecting statistics and organizing community meetings to develop a snapshot of the dance community, but her work also was not properly acknowledged by those who utilized it.

Someone asked Wojtek why they hadn’t heard of us despite our international work and our clear relationships with other artists in the room, and Wojtek replied with humour that we are too busy working.  I would also add that as a dance community, we don’t promote or acknowledge each other’s good work nearly enough.  Not to funders, not to each other.  We don’t play well together, it seems to me.  And that is something we can fix.

So, to other artists working here in Calgary who were not acknowledged yesterday (due to time limitations or other) for their artistic and  other contributions to the scene, I want to mention by name Davida Monk, Tania Alvarado, all of DSW as well as the DAG artists,  Anne Flynn for a list too long for this small space AND for starting the group “Building Community through Dance” (many years ago), Allara Gooliaf and Tara Blue of Three Left Feet (though Allara was briefly introduced yesterday), Linnea Swan (whose work is featured in the Fluid Fest), Rosanna Terraciano, Michéle Moss….but that is just a start.  And to the large organizations that were mentioned, and to DJD for hosting the conference, THANK YOU for all you have contributed and continue to contribute.

To all, send us info, we would love to profile your work on our site.      W&M

Seeking General Manager


Job Description

We are currently seeking an inspiring and self-motivated individual to join our team. 

Our part-time General Manager will help us manage the operations of our small but active organization. Reporting directly to the Artistic Director and the Board of Directors, and working closely with Facility Manager, the General Manager is responsible for managing the overall administrative, financial and human resources of the organization. The General Manager will interact and coordinate with the Facility Manager and the Volunteer Coordinator and reports to the Artistic Director and Board of Directors.

This is a part-time position (2 days per week/10 hours per week) with a range from $18-$25 per hour or $10,000- $12,000 annually for 50 weeks of work per year.  Salary is commensurate with experience.


  • Minimum 2 years of arts management experience in the non-profit arts sector;
  • An understanding of – and a passion for – the artistic work of W&M Dance Projects, and its role in the live performance ecology;
  • Excellent grant writing and communication skills are a must;
  • Simple bookkeeping skills
  • Great Organizational skills
  • Ability to manage and understand the legal obligations of our organization
  • Marketing and promotion experience
  • A “can do” attitude and a willingness to go above and beyond when necessary;
  • Ability to learn quickly, think on your feet, and adapt easily to new environments;
  • Attention to detail and an ability to maintain focus in fast-paced work environment, while maintaining an eye on a larger picture.

Organization Description


W&M Dance Projects of Calgary Association (W&M Dance Projects) is the umbrella name encompassing the dance entities and community projects under the artistic direction of Wojciech Mochniej and Melissa Monteros. It is the home of the professional company W&M Physical Theatre, the apprentice company WM2, the pre-professional program SURGE Co., and the Artist in Residence program.  It is an organization that continues to demonstrate artistic excellence, audience growth, and strong initiatives in education, performance, and community development. W&M Dance Projects has its home in its own leased space which contains 2 large fully equipped dance studios on two levels available for rental to artists and artistic projects.  Located just six minutes from downtown, near Stage West in Southeast Calgary, W&M Dance Projects provides artists with the space, training, mentorship, and community they need to develop new work and new ways of working, while offering audiences outstanding new performances.

How to Apply:

Please submit your cover letter and resume by email to: by 5pm, Monday, November 1, 2017.

When creating the file, be sure to make your name the file name, SurnameFirstname.doc

We thank everyone who applies for their interest. The first round of interviews will occur the week of November 6th, 2017.