In The Making

Dana Michel used to want to be in the Olympics — instead she won the 'Olympics of art'

The choreographer and dancer is the first Canadian to win the Venice Biennale's Silver Lion award.

The choreographer and dancer is the first Canadian to win the Venice Biennale's Silver Lion award

In the Making host Sean O'Neill and Dana Michel in Venice (CBC Arts)

Ottawa choreographer and dancer Dana Michel goes to Venice in her episode of In the Making, but while the canals look idyllic, she's not there for vacation. Michel is there for the Venice Biennale,​ where she will perform her solo work Yellow Towel — an exploration of her relationship to race and Blackness. While she's there, she'll also win one of the dance world's highest honours: the Venice Biennale's Silver Lion.

Michel is the first Canadian to win the award, and in this clip from the episode, host Sean O'Neill asks her what that feels like. Michel responds with a recollection of a different ambition: "I used to run track, and at one point when I was really training hard, I wanted to get a tattoo of the Canadian flag on my leg. I was all in. And I'm like, 'I'm going to go to the Olympics one day.'"

"In a way I made it to a different kind of Olympics that wasn't on my radar."

Watch the clip:

Dana Michel on winning the Olympics of the art world in Venice

3 years ago
Michel became the first Canadian to ever win the Venice Biennale's Silver Lion. 1:36

"People call it the Olympics of the art world," says O'Neill.

On the eve of getting the Silver Lion, Michel marvels at the feeling of getting this kind of honour. "It's so overwhelming and so beyond the scope of what is normal in one's life." She gestures around at the grand canal: "This is ungraspable."

Stream Dana Michel's episode of In the Making now.

What is In the Making?

In the Making is an immersive journey inside the creative process. The documentary series follows host Sean O'Neill across the country and around the world alongside some of Canada's leading artists as they bring new work to life and face pivotal moments of risk and reward. All eight episodes are available to stream online now, with individual episodes broadcasting weekly each Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC.

Each episode follows an artist from across the creative spectrum — visual art, film, music, dance, theatre — with a unique approach to art-making and something to say about the world. Sean visits artists at home, in studio, backstage, and in the field, giving viewers rare access to intimate creative spaces and inspiring moments of realization.

Watch the trailer:

Stream every episode of In the Making now, or watch Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC TV.