Dana Michel: in conversation with dana michel


Link to recording of lecture

Iceland Academy of the Arts

Steinunn Knútsdóttir dean of The Department of Performing Arts will join Dana Michel for a conversation. 


In her pieces, Dana Michel explores the multiple facets of identity through intuitive improvisation. She brings to the fore the notions of performance alchemy and cultural bricolage – using live moments, object appropriation, and the juxtaposition of personal history with current preoccupations. After the immense success of Yellow Towel, she continues to criss-cross the globe with her new solo creation, Mercurial George. An exceptional choreographer and performer world-renowned for her moving work, Dana Michel was awarded the Silver Lion for Innovation in Dance at the Venice Biennale in 2017, awarded the newly created ImPulstanz Award (Vienna) in recognition for outstanding artistic accomplishments and was highlighted amongst notable female choreographers of the year by the New York Times.


In the words of the artist

"Teetering on the edges of choreography, intuitive improvisation and live art, I create situations that are rooted in exploring the disorderly multiplicity of identity. I work with notions of performative alchemy and cultural bricolage – using live moments, object appropriation, personal history, future desires and current preoccupations to create an empathetic centrifuge of experience between myself and witnesses. Today, my work can perhaps best be described by its influences: lucid cinematography, living sculpture, physical comedy, psychological excavation, deconstructed social commentary, the bulimic logic of Hip Hop, and child-like naïveté.

It is a metaphor of humans as mathematical proofs that helps me understand the world around me. I consider myself, and others, to be like proofs – complex entities made up of billions of equations. What I choose to explore in my work is usually an intimate part of my personal equation. I feel that making work by tapping into my life experiences is the most effective path to self-knowledge and to opening a space for meaningful connection with others.


In research, I alternate between the work that takes place in and out of the studio. After pouring over a subject via writing, reading, discussion and audiovisual research – I relax my focus and let the body take over. I feed myself with sound, silence and dissonance, at times over-stuffing my body and psyche with stimulation to see its response. And then the minute details pop into my seeing and kinetic vision. Sometimes these details manifest in visceral-based movement and sounds and other times in ideas for colour, texture or light. These details are what clarify the work’s creative direction for me.

Maybe in part because of my background in competitive sport, I am often drawn to using difficulty as a choreographic navigation methodology. Encouraging my performances into places of emergency and vulnerability allow me to dig deeper into the material and to therefore share richer and perhaps more honest findings. My relatively late and blind introduction to the world of contemporary art seems to infuse a sort of Art Brut sensibility to my performance work.

I aim to construct works in such a manner that there is much to gain no matter what the public’s knowledge or background. All perceptions of the work are just as valid and important as its intentions – a notion of exponential multiplicity of reactions is welcome. My work is meant to leave a vast open space for viewers to understand whatever they want and need to understand. A goal is to encourage a broadening of interpretation and space for audience members to create their own logic of witnessing and experiencing. I am interested in sharing a journey where along the way a new manner of seeing can be formed."