Contemporary dance and live arts curation

Raised in a family of artists, Dena has worked in the contemporary dance field for 50 years as a performer, choreographer, community and university educator, curator and researcher. She immigrated to Quebec from the United States in 1977.

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When she first arrived, she introduced Montrealers to a postmodern dance technique known as Contact Improvisation, designed a number of choreographic works with feminist themes and organized evenings of choreographic tryouts for the dance community. In 1980, she co-founded Tangente, the first dance presenting organization in Quebec, where she served as artistic director until 2019. Dena was also the co-creator and co-founder of Montreal’s Festival international de nouvelle danse (1985) and initiated CanDance, a national dance touring network.

Concurrently with her artistic practices, Deans was a lecturer in the Dance Department at the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) for 26 years. She was part of the first cohort of UQAM’s Programme d'études et pratiques des arts, for which she completed an ethnographic study of the meaning of contemporary dance events. In addition, she taught Canada's first university course in live arts curation in the university’s Museum Studies Program.

Ms. Davida has also published widely in dance and culture, recently editing two anthologies, Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance (2012) and Curating Live Arts: Critical Perspectives, Essays and Conversations on Theory and Practice (2018).

Having completed her tenure at Tangente in 2020, she is now engaged in an international movement to create a profession and field of study for live arts curation. To this end, she is working on the conception of a scientific journal and on organizing symposia and developing university courses in this emerging field of study.

At age 71, Dena epitomizes the notion that dance knows no age, and today, she is still actively involved in performance projects as an “elder dancer.” She continues to practice Iyengar yoga, as she has done for the past 20 years.