News / Calgary

Artist director of Calgary's DSW dancing her way out

After a decade, Davida Monk is stepping down from Dancers' Studio West

Davida Monk in Hope is a Feathered Thing from the 36th Annual Alberta Dance Festival.

Courtesy Tim Nguyen

Davida Monk in Hope is a Feathered Thing from the 36th Annual Alberta Dance Festival.

It’s been a heckuva decade for Davida Monk, who will be stepping down as artistic director after 10 years with Calgary’s Dancers' Studio West, following the end of this season.

The studio has been a key player in growing the local dancers' network and connecting it to national talent. Dancers' Studio West’s main commitment has been in artist development, which made Monk the perfect leader for the organization when she stepped into the artistic director role in 2008.

Monk actually stepped into the dance world relatively late in life – at the age of 25. She soon studied under Peter Boneham, who developed the first dance lab in Canada. Boneham’s lab was less interested in high production values or touring around the country – instead he focused on bringing the choreographers in to experiment and develop, which in turn also helped grow the versatility of the dancers.

These lessons Monk carried with her through her career and into Dancers' Studio West. It was all about developing a critical eye in her dancers and choreographers.

“That means educating how to see, what we’re doing in the studio, in process and final production, and developing a language that helps us see and analyze, and therefor being able to target problematic aspects of the creative work and address those things,” Monk explained. “I work very hard through all our programming to help the artists step into a role of authority.”

Under Monk’s eye the group launched the Cycle of Residencies, a program of seasonal cycle of choreographic residencies aimed at getting exciting work to the public, and the Dance Action Group, which formed a group of aesthetically diverse and experienced performers and choreographers who were dedicated to critical dialogue.

“Davida Monk leaves Dancers’ Studio West with an incredible legacy,” said board president Megan Ballard.

“With her clear artistic vision and sophisticated artistry, Davida has nurtured the discovery of contemporary dance for Calgary audiences.”

But after 10 years, Monk feels she’s done all she can for the company. Artistically and administratively the company is working well, and it’s a secure time to let someone else take the reigns.

“All the good work that I and my artistic cohorts have put into the company will hopefully attract a younger artistic director who can see everyone operating at a good level and be attracted to the potential for what they can offer the community,” she explained.

The search for a new artistic director is on, while Monk will finish out the season in April.

She hopes the move will also let her dedicate more time to her craft, away from the responsibilities of leadership. As this curtain closes, she’s dancing her way out.

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