Melissa Gendreau

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What are you currently working on?

Perceptions Contemporary Dance Company has just finished its 5th season since I founded it in 2007. This month we are hosting 24 artists from across the globe at the 2012 The Perceptions Dance Festival, and heading on tour to Boston, Santa Barbara and Long Beach, CA. I’m also working on the brand new mind+body fitness site TheSagebook.com with Studio Anya.

Where are you based out of?

Currently New York City… soon to be TBA

When did you start your training?

My first dance class was in the 4th grade, but my first serious dance studies started when I was 15.

When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

When I was 3 years old I would draw pictures of myself as a dancer. I never came up with anything else besides “teacher” until I was 17 and knew I was going to go to school for dance despite other’s “guideance”.

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

My first paid gig was with Bennett Dance Company in 2007. We performed at the black-tie Boston Children’s Museum Re-Opening Gala hosted by Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner. Our performance was site-specific, and we spent weeks creating inside the 3-story tall New Balance Climb. It was amazing!

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

My first mentor was my first real dance teacher, Stephanie Wilson. She was a huge influence on my life path and decision to go to school for dance. My second mentor was Nailah Randall-Bellinger, who , while studying at Dean College, managed to shape my mind around modern dance and choreography. Her work was an inspiration to me constantly, and I mentally picked apart the brilliance in the movement and stories on a regular basis. She was one of the first to truly make me feel something stronger then myself while dancing. Currently, I look up to choreographers like Larry Keigwin & David Parsons.

What’s your favorite memory on stage?

One of my favorite memories was performing a piece by Nailah Randal-Bellinger inspired by Hurricane Katrina. There was a moment in the piece where we shouted for our loved ones in desperate search. In one performance I remember looking around and realizing how trusting and “in-it” we all were, and how simply honest and true it felt throughout. I remember feeling the heart and intention in such positive light, and that it was not just “dancing” – it meant something more and it WAS something more. In order to perform the piece you had to be so deep in it that you honestly felt it was true. This moment has inspired me and inspired the direction I give in my own work.

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

The New Balance Climb at the Boston Children’s Museum. The most unique platform and space, though there are many stages that rank high on the list.

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

The 5-year look-back is a serious triumph. As a choreographer and producer, the many shows that I have produced that have been sold-out are some of the greatest triumphs. Two in particular that stand out to me. The first show I ever produced in New York City was for Perceptions Contemporary Dance Company. The process was challenging, and the show sold out each night, but the most amazing part was seeing my work on the stage danced by some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, and produced entirely by myself for the first time in my life. It was a dream. The second was producing the first Perceptions Dance Festival in 2010. The process was smooth, the show was beautiful, and the feedback was fantastic. This was when I knew for certain I was going to be a producer.

Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a dancer?

Being a part of performances that didn’t resonate with me really helped to shape my craving for what “dance” is in my mind. It has helped to shape what my own company would strive for.

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

Not at the moment, though I’ve always felt this was missing. Perhaps I haven’t figured it out yet?

What inspires you to keep going?

My goal of creating contemporary dance as entertainment keeps me going constantly. My goal is to create work that all audiences will appreciate and enjoy – despite the level of dance experience. I produce work of up-and-coming artists that embody these ideas. I am constantly inspired by the lack of appreciation for contemporary art in my home city of Boston. My life-long motivation and goal is to create a center for contemporary art & dance in Boston – a space that embraces the dance scene in the Boston area, where I can produce local, national and international artists, house fresh/current teaching artists, and provide space for creation, production and education for all things contemporary dance.

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Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be dancing?

I see myself in my own facility – complete with many clean, spacious studios and a state-of-the-art dance theater – that houses Perceptions Contemporary Dance Company, offers professional classes for professional dancers, children’s programs, affordable rehearsal spaces for artists, and a major presenting program for high caliber dance. I see this as the new nexus hub for dance in Boston, MA.

What are your goals outside of dance?

Learning to relax and enjoy my surroundings, and traveling the world. I also would love to entirely renovate/remodel a house inside & out to make it my dream home.

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

Stay motivated! There are so many rejections in this industry – whether it’s an audition, residency, choreographic opportunity, or unsupportive guidance. These “rejections” will help to shape your artistry. Sometimes these “rejections” are telling you that you’re not getting your point across. Do what you know you’re supposed to do, but allow yourself to stay open to new suggestions as constructive criticism – though you don’t always have to accept it.

What music are you listening to right now?

I love my hand-crafted Pandora station. I can’t spill the secrets of it as it’s filled with the most inspiring music that I use for my choreography. Come to a show and you’ll understand 🙂

List five inspirations.

(1) New York City. (2) Human relationships (3) Color/texture (4) music (5) the ocean

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