University of Calgary

Melissa Monteros

  • Professor Emerita of Dance
  • Sessional Instructor

Research Interests


Currently Teaching


Monteros is an active performer, choreographer, and teacher. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary in the School of Creative and Performing Arts, where she is currently Acting Chair, Dance. She is Artistic Director of W&M Physical Theatre which she founded in Poland in 1994 with Wojciech Mochniej, her long time collaborator. Monteros has a Master of Arts in Dance from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), a BFA from the University of Utah, and has studied and performed with many distinguished dance artists. She has been a guest teacher and performer for dance companies, universities and festivals in Europe and North America, and her artistic work is informed by her frequent collaborations and associations with international artists. She has created work on companies in both North America and Europe and for theatre and film. She was a Fulbright Award recipient to Poland and Artistic Advisor to Silesian Dance Theatre. She is named in the Report on Contemporary Dance for the Congress on Polish Culture (2009) for her contributions to contemporary dance and has received honorary awards from two institutions in Gdansk for her contributions to dance in that city. She has been the recipient of grants from the Canada Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, for International Collaborations from the University of Calgary, and from other international organizations. With Mochniej, her work has been seen in Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy, as well as Canada and the USA. A longtime and renewed interest in making dance for the camera has her focused on developing new perspectives on choreography.


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Choreography & Performance
Dance on Film
Collaborative Partnerships

Why pursue this art form, the orphan child of the Arts, that captures us in childhood and often, never leaves? Like many things of the body and the spirit, it is sometimes feared, often misunderstood, largely disrespected. But it is through the body that I experience so much of the world. Through dance, that articulate expression of harmony between the intellect and the sensual, I question, learn, reveal, and immerse myself in a world that communicates to others on a number of different levels. Film, theatre, poetry, and music inspire and influence me, but the exploration of the body in space as a medium of expression is my primary interest. My long-term relationship with Poland and Finland have had a profound impact on me. The theatre of dance stimulates and interests me; it has an ability to create poetry through the combination of visual and sound design, as well as the use of the voice in text and song. I am drawn to exploring deep states of being for new definitions of beauty, and to finding a relationship between beauty and the grotesque.

Choreography & Performance


Here To Stay
"a poetic statement on the behalf of oceans".
Collaborating with Finnish artists Pirjo Yli-Maunula and Jukka Huitila, Monteros and Mochniej joined forces with that duo to create a highly sensory world built around the theme of the sea; its influence on their lives and their travels across it. From the warm seas of the Pacific to the cold seas of the North, these collaborators invited individual artists from France, Mexico, Finland and Canada to join them in an exploration of the dangers and beauty of this natural force.
Choreography and Performance: Melissa Monteros, Wojciech Mochniej, Pirjo Yli-Maunula, Jukka Huitila

Guest Performers: Ghislain Carosio, Henna Holma (Finland) or Pirjo Valinen

Costume construction: Maija Mattiina Pihlaja, Heidi Kesti

Light and Sound design: Jukka Huitila 

Graphic design: Tomi Hurskainen 

Photos: Pekka Mäkinen (Finland), Aaron McCullough (Canada)

Production: Flow Productions (Finland), W&M Physical Theatre (Canada)

Partners: Compagnie Itinerrances (France), Delfos Danza Contemporanéa (Mexico), Hurtownia Ruchu Studio Tanca (Poland), Culture Centre Valve (Finland), JoJo-Oulu Dance Centre (Finland)

Premiere: (Finland) Culture Centre Valve, Oulu, Finland October 9-16, 2010; 
(Canada) High Performance Rodeo, Vertigo Theatre January 19-21, 2012 Duration: 50 minutes
This work was supported by: Finnish Cultural Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Skins: Bodies for Sale
Skins: Bodies for Sale is a 50 minute dance work. The work was inspired by a story in the Polish media; the exposure of the illegal practice by ambulance drivers and other medical practitioners of selling the body parts of the injured or dying. A highly visual world, Skins: Bodies for Sale uses both gritty, physical dance movement and the staging of theatrical scenes to explore the concepts of the body.
Choreography: Wojciech Mochniej

Collaborator: Melissa Monteros with acknowledgement to Davida Monk

Performers: Wojciech Mochniej, Melissa Monteros, Davida Monk
Light Design: Steve Isom
Stage Design Concept and Video Editing: Wojciech Mochniej
Technical Director: Brian MacNeil
presented at High Performance Rodeo January 2010

Triangular Theories of Love
I began with the desire to collaborate with other artists, specifically Kris Demeanor and Wojciech Mochniej, and to explore work with text and video. Later, inspiration came from musings on the strange trappings attached to finding and remaining in a long term relationship, and the idea that pushing against and moving in response to someone else can lead you to new and wonderful things.
The contributions of each of the performers shape the work--and it is great to see established artists take these ideas on. Kris Demeanor's contributions and his presence in the studio gave new direction and depth to the scenes. In this incarnation, the male voice comes into play as the contributions of Mochniej and Demeanor influence the narrative.
Choreography: Melissa Monteros
Collaborators: Wojciech Mochniej, Kris Demeanor
Video: Wojciech Mochniej
Cast: Ghislain Carosio, Michael Cros, Maya Lewandowsky, Wojciech Mochniej, Natalie Poissant, Natalia Babanova, Chelsey Higdon, Jared Herring
On Screen Performance: Kris Demeanor
Music: Compilation by Wojciech Mochniej with music by Taylor Deupree, Matmos, Juliette Greko, Dead Eros, Hazard, Shuttle 358, Haruka Nakamura, Alva Noto, Frank Bretschneider, Signal, Pogo


CoACTION: Force or Compulsion? 
A dance theatre work that explores the expressive range and impulse of our human interactions. Are our actions put into motion by force or compulsion? By circumstance or determination? By impulse or desire?
CoACTION began as an exploration of human interactions and the resultant motion of those interactions. We had been working together as a group of 6 for almost 4 years. Then, one of us was moving away.  How does one small action, the movement of one body in space moving to another, change our world?  This developed into explorations of identity, impulse, compulsions, desires, fate, and impact.  How does the action of one person move us, change us, change our path in life?  The use of media allowed us to explore the power of the disembodied image.  Which does the audience choose to watch; the live or the digitized?  The parts or the live whole?
Choreography: Melissa Monteros & Wojciech Mochniej
Soundscape: Wojciech Mochniej with music by Scarlotti and Caldara (performed by Cecelia Bartoli, Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre) Murcof, Holly Herndon, Denzel and Huhn
Performers: Natalia Babanova, Laura Henley, Chelsey Higdon, Lauren Cote, Rufino Rodriguez, Luis Enrique Nájera
Stage Design & Video Editing: Wojciech Mochniej
Light Design: Steve Isom

The Cube
The primary concept and exploration of The Cube is around the Rubik’s Cube puzzle - this varicolored, many-sided box is utilized as a metaphor for our multi-faceted selves and ability to be part of a whole. It becomes a metaphor for limitation and potential; a cell-like structure which creates pathways and boundaries. The work explores how individual voices survive and even thrive in a group, how we mask or hide from aspects of ourselves and bring conflicting sides into harmony, how we sometimes experience parts of ourselves being ripped away, and how our deep desire to move beyond our personal borders, at great risk, survives.
Choreography: Melissa Monteros
Collaborator: Wojciech Mochniej
Scenic Design and Video: Wojciech Mochniej
Light Design: Steve Isom
Costume: Tracy Murray
Music: Timeless composed by Scott Godin and played by Graheme Tofflemire, Solitude composed by Scott Edward Godin, Triple Riffing composed by Timothy Brady and (at Dancers’ Studio West) played by Jeremy Brown, Theresa Lane, Deanna Oye
Dancers: Lauren Cote, Laura Henley, Rufino Rodriguez, Miku Tsuchiya, Serenella Argueta
The original 32 minutes of the work was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and by Dancers’ Studio West.


Choreography and Performance: Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej
Frames was the opening duet section of a larger work called Cells. "Cele" in Polish, or Cells, has a similar meaning in both languages, but in Polish it can also mean a goal. We were interested in this relationship...a prison that is not a prison, a goal that becomes a prison....We developed the duet into a 35 minute work.

In Sahara Aaltokoski combines video film and dance. The video material is filmed in the Tunisian desert. The work studies the interaction between man and nature - how man shapes a landscape and what kind of marks he leaves on it. The work, through its video projections, creates a multi-dimensional world. Sahara comes alive in the dancers' bodies, in their movement and their relation to one another.
Choreography and direction: Alpo Aaltokoski

Dancers: Melissa Monteros, Raisa Punkki, Katri Soini, Pirjo Yli-Maunula, Reijo Kela, Mojciech Mochniej

Video directing: Tapani Launonen

Video photographer: J-P Passi

Video editing: Tapani Launonen, J-P Passi

Lighting and set design: Tarja Ervasti

Music and sound design: Mikko Hynninen

Costume design: Marja Uusitalo

Photos and graphics: Ninna Lindstrom
Premiere: April 25, 2002 in JoJo - Oulu Dance Center, Finland


Shadowsis a duet work that uses a raw and rough treatment of the body and voice. Shadows, along with the work Whispers was a venture into explorations of the relationship between the grotesque and beautiful, but was also inspired by a poem by Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz entitled "Faith".
"What has no shadow has no strength to live".
Choreography: Melissa Monteros

Music: Jean Martinon, Paul Giger, Australian Aboriginal

Performers: Aurora Lubos and Melissa Monteros


Bone Songs
Bone Songs is a work in two acts; the first, Whispers, and the second, The Return. The title came from a very strong feeling that our histories are deep in our bones; that all the stories of our ancestors are stored in our DNA and resonate in us. Physically and choreographically, it was one of our (Wojciech Mochniej and I) first very deep explorations of this idea of the grotesque leading us into the beautiful. 
Choreography and Performance: Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej
Light Design: Jari Haavikko
Special Acknowledgement: Eija and Jari Haavikko for designing our first set.

Borders was the first choreographic collaboration between Wojciech Mochniej and I. It marked a great change in my work. Theatre, set and lights, strong physicality as well as demanding partnering dominated the work. The subject was borders of many kinds; between nations, religions, humans, and the violence that results when these invisible boundaries are confronted. It premiered in Bytom, Poland at the first International Conference of Contemporary Dance. Between 1994 and '97 we performed it many times in 5 different countries. We remounted it for its 10th anniversary in 2004 for Dance Explosions, Calgary.
Choreography and Performance: Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej
Music: George Crumb, Dimitri Shostokovich, Istvaan Marta
Light Design: Steve Isom

Like Knowing Cinnamon Before the Taste

Choreographer: Erin O'Connor

Dancers: Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej

Music: Paul Giger

Movement generated by artistic collaboration

Dance on film

I have always been first and foremost committed to live performance; however, even as a student I was making experimental dance films out of curiosity and interest. I can now see myself moving into the world of creating and re envisioning dances for the screen. I find it a malleable form. The shaping of time and space are far more fluid than on the stage. The ability to shape the rhythm and color and to rework these ideas in the editing process rather than in the rehearsal hall can be friendlier to both the creator and the performer. The ability to meet an audience beyond the boundaries of the host theatre (in live performance) is extremely exciting. More importantly, I find the artistic potential for my choreographic vision to be achieved in this medium unlimited.


Skins: Bodies for Sale
Concept: Melissa Monteros
Producer: Melissa Monteros
Director: Melissa Monteros
Camera: Wojciech Mochniej
Camera 2: Melissa Monteros
Editing: Wojciech Mochniej
Performers: Natalia Babanova, Laura Henley, Chelsey Higdon, Miku Tsuchiya


Just Po Prostu
follows a woman and man through their troubled relationship and finds them struggling to reconnect. We created a dual role for the woman. Her alter ego speaks to her through the magic of the camera and editing room. The project was a fantastic experience and the enthusiasm and commitment of all the artists and technicians involved speaks to whole group's belief in the quality of the work we were creating together.
Executive Producer: Melissa Monteros
Producer: Melissa Monteros in association with Film Polska, Alvernia Studios & karma 2000
Associate Producer: Krzysztof Solek
Directed by Kenneth Sherman in collaboration with Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej
Choreography by Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej based on the stage version Just Po Prostu by Wojciech Mochniej and Melissa Monteros
Performed by Wojciech Mochniej and Barbara Czajkowska
Editor: Kenneth Sherman
Associate Editor: Wojciech Mochniej
Music: Aleksandra Bilinska
First Assistant Director: Krzysztof Solek
Director of Photography: Pawel Labe
Art Director: Lukasz Trzcinski
1st Camera: Pawel Labe
2nd Camera: Kenneth Sherman
3rd Camera: Melissa Monteros
Gaffer: Bartosz Gocal
Key Grip: Bartek Szoja
Production Assistant: Magda Ludwig
Rehearsal Director: Melissa Monteros


Camera: JP Passi
Edit: Tapani Launonen
Performance: Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej
Actual duration: 7 minutes
Journey was created by Tapani Launonen and J-P Pasi, and was part of a collaborative project that was inspired by the duo's collaborative discussions with Monteros and Mochniej.

Collaborative Partnerships

Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej as W&M Physical Theatre have created partnerships with a number of international organizations. They have increased the presense of Calgary abroad by presenting Dance Explosions, Poland from 1995-2002. They partner with arts organizations in France, Finland and Poland most frequently, providng students and faculty opportunities for international exchanges. Mochniej and Monteros continue to create together and present their individual and shared works under the title W&M Physical Theatre. Their works include co-choreographies but also the creation of works that utilize the fellow artist as a collaborator on conceptual development, set and lights, and sections of movement.

Flow Productions

Pirjo Yli-Maunula is a dance performer, choreographer and founder and Director of Flow Productions in Oulu, Finland. Yli-Maunula and Monteros have performed and organized projects together since 1994. The partnerships include touring shared programs, collaborative partnerships in creation, and facilitating exchanges with other artists.They have completed exchanges which included the presentation of Yli-Maunula's works Self Portrait and Body & Surface in Calgary, the creation of a work by Monteros on Finnish dancers, student tours to Finland, and shared performances on tour in Finland and Poland. Their most recent collaborative choreographic work, Here to Stay, premiered in Finland in October 2011 and at the High Performance Rodeo in Calgary in January 2012.

Compagnie Itinerrances

Christine Fricker is a choreographer based in Marseille, France and is Artistic Director of Cie Itinerrance. She and Monteros first met at an international improvisation festival of dance in Zielona Gora, Poland, then in Poznan, where both were presenting work. Their mutual interest was in coming to know each other through a process which included creating together. Ms. Fricker and Monteros worked with University of Calgary students as well as their professional companies, to develop an improvised performance. Their collaborative projects include the presentation of Fricker's work Time is on My Side in Calgary, a shared performance in Marseille, and the participation of Fricker in a collaborative exchange and creation with Yli-Maunula of Finland. Other exchanges initiated through partnership with Fricker include the projects with Maison de la Danse, Istre, as a partner for encouraging exchanges of faculty and students. Their current collaborative project is the creation and presentation in Calgary of Inventories of Bodies.

Kris Demeanor

Calgary's first poet laureate, Kris Demeanor might be best know to Calgary audiences as a singer, songwriter, spoken word poet but when Monteros asked him to collaborate on a work about love, he responded as poet, musician, performer and actor. His response had a great influence on the balance of ideas in the work and his on screen performance gave us a platform for a number of our movement scenes.


I see teaching as a natural extension of being an artist.

My career in dance finds me immersed in choreography, performance, production, light and set design, the camera and editing, grant writing, budget making, directing, teaching and planning; I am eager to share with students my understanding of these skills and others that might be needed to create a wonderful future for themselves in dance.

Through teaching and interaction with students, I am constantly reevaluating the role that dance plays in our society, as well as reexamining the relevance and direction of my own choreographic and performance work. Looking at their goals, their strengths and weaknesses, and synthesizing my knowledge base into information that will serve their future is challenging and exciting.

I believe in the power of dance to facilitate change and personal growth, and in the power of choreography and performance to create connections between people. The contributions that a practicing artist can make as a dance educator are irreplaceable.

Teaching stimulates, frustrates, motivates, and inspires me. It is a struggle, and the struggle is good. To me, dance is beautiful, challenging, fun and we humans are imperfect, wonderful creatures. In dance we can thrive. I learn from students, and from teaching. I question, I succeed, I fail, I grow.

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