In the Making

Why dancer Dana Michel embraced Blackness in her work after avoiding it at first

A powerful personal realization helped her fearlessly explore issues of race and identity.

A powerful personal realization helped her fearlessly explore issues of race and identity

(CBC Arts)

Dana Michel has captivated the world of contemporary dance, but she's by no means a conventional performer. Part improvisation, part physical comedy, part performance art, Michel's work is experimental and daring. She fearlessly explores issues of race and identity — themes drawn from her own experience.

In this clip from In the Making, Michel discusses what initially drew her to dance, as well as explaining why she was reluctant to include issues of race and Blackness in her work prior to her dance piece Yellow Towel.

Watch the clip:

Canadian dancer Dana Michel speaks to In the Making's Sean O'Neill about the process of becoming a dancer and bringing race into her work. 1:28
Yellow Towel was the first moment that I was like, 'Oh, I've been doing this hiding thing.' I didn't totally realize I was doing it.- Dana Michel on becoming a dancer

When she started making dance in her 20s, she didn't want to be seen through the frame of her race. "I had been making 'don't block me into my Blackness' work because I'm obviously more than that," says Michel. "And the boxing was happening anyway. And so I decided to box myself in."

For her, the personal catalyst behind the change was thinking about having a child one day and realizing she wanted to feel more connected to Black history. In 2013, she premiered Yellow Towel — a visceral solo piece exploring her relationship to Blackness. The title refers to the towel she wore on her head as a child to emulate her blonde-haired classmates.

Watch Michel's episode of In the Making on CBC TV this Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) or stream it online 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.