Women on Top

POW WOW’s Dany Desjardins on the Fierce Female Form

Despite what the promotional material may lead you to believe, POW WOW’s female dancers are anything but delicate. photo marqui montes

Black leather heels are strung about the brightly lit studio, and a beautiful model-esque woman emerges in high fashion. Jerking her body in angular motions to the beat, she poses—arms outstretched, shoulders concaved, hips swiveling. She strikes a pose: vogue.

Suddenly, the model is on the floor and looking ill. Gagging, a string of pearls slowly starts projecting from her mouth; she wipes the beads from her face and they fall to the floor. Throwing her head back, neck outstretched, a crystal emerges from her mouth, pushing from her round, pink lips.

The video—visceral, raw and feminine—is for Montreal choreographer and artistic director Dany Desjardins’s newest dance creation, POW WOW, playing in La Chapelle theatre from Oct. 25 to 29.

The only thing that the video doesn’t represent about his work, Desjardins explains, is the musical score. In the place of delicate chimes, he says, the audience should expect disco, dirty R&B and house.

“When the guy made the video I was pushing to find a disco song, but we tried over 10 tracks and it didn’t work,” Desjardins said with a laugh. “It’s too dark and ambient; the show is really about pumping up the music and dance—that rhythm, beat and bass. It’s about jacking it up.”

Looking at the video again, Desjardins said he wouldn’t be surprised if his audience leaves with something they never expected, especially if they’ve only seen the delicate trailer footage.

“While [my work is] still feminine, the base to the show are these strong women—women who are powerful and on top of everything. I’m tired of seeing women [in contemporary dance] depicted in a ball on the floor,” he said. “For me it was really a joy to see my girls get into that kind of evolution, exploring their strong feminine side. It’s not seduction by sexuality, but being seduced by the force of these women’s power onstage—their real, strong characters.”

POW WOW—which Desjardin has been working on since last summer—has a glamorous, high-fashion aesthetic that certainly carries over from the promotional material to the live show. The set will include “a catwalk with extravagant, super costumes. Diamonds and pearls. It’s over the top—while getting into something very pure, very clear,” said the choreographer.

Inspired by ‘80s voguing documentary Paris Is Burning, which features folks of limited means “faking rich, famous and glamorous superstar lives,” Desjardins explained that POW WOW came from the same stimulation.

It was about “getting into the theatre and assuming glamour in the industrial space [of La Chapelle]. It was like, while we were voguing and walking and acting super trashy, we were stars, even if we were pretending.”

His beautiful dancers—Geneviève Boulet, Isabelle Arcand, Claudine Hébert and Esther Rousseau-Morin—round out the high-fashion-meets-art physical creation. Desjardins, who has a visual art background, said he always keeps the aesthetic aspect present in his works.

“It’s important for me to have good light, costumes and objects. I’m not of the [contemporary dance] style when you just care about the movements and you do things in rehearsal clothes,” he explained. “I like my image clean—there’s a magic in that.”

Taking the work back to the basics of dance—“Why does dance exist? To celebrate!”—Desjardins explained he wanted to create something tribal, something positive, something “within us.”

“I called the show POW WOW to celebrate that venue for a whole society to collaborate in a communal space, where [the audience] can hear the beat, feel the movement and become hypnotized in it. It’s very raw.”

POW WOW / Oct 24 – 29 / La Chapelle (3700 St. Dominique St.) more info