There is really nothing more to say—except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”

-—Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Mélanie Demers

2024 National Arts Centre Award

Multidisciplinary artist, choreographer, stage director and performer

Multidisciplinary artist, choreographer, director and performer Mélanie Demers is the founding artistic director of Montréal-based contemporary dance company MAYDAY. She is known for complex, highly imaginative works that reflect her fascination with the human condition, the role of the artist in society, the interplay between language and movement, and the powerful link between the poetical and the political. In a prolific career spanning nearly three decades, she has created over 30 works that have toured internationally and captivated audiences and critics alike.
Born in Montréal in 1974, Ms. Demers studied dance, literature and theatre in Québec before returning to Montréal to attend LADMMI (now the École de danse contemporaine de Montréal). She made her choreographic debut in 1996; two years later, she joined O Vertigo under artistic director Ginette Laurin (GGPAA 2018), and danced with that company for close to a decade while continuing to collaborate with emerging choreographers.
In 2007, she founded her own company, MAYDAY. Of the name, she says, “I liked the idea that when you send out a call for help, it’s because there’s still hope; and the idea of taking a chance, of never giving up.” From early works such as Les Angles Morts (2006), Sense of Self (2008), Junkyard/Paradise (2010) and Goodbye (2012) to the more recent Danse Mutante (2019), La Goddam Voie Lactée (2021), Confession Publique (2021) and Cabaret Noir (2022), the company has charted a vibrant and original course in the landscape of contemporary dance.
In 2022, Ms. Demers made her debut as a theatre director with Declarations, by Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill, produced by Théâtre Prospero (Montréal).
A socially engaged artist, she has taught dance in Kenya, Niger, Brazil and Haiti, where she helped develop two cultural centres. She currently teaches at Canada’s leading dance and theatre schools, and appears regularly on radio and television.
Mélanie Demers has received two awards from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec for Best Choreographic Work (in 2015, for WOULD, and in 2022, for Confession Publique) and the 2021 Grand Prix de la danse de Montréal in recognition of the unique imprint she has left on her era.