MAYDAY: distress call dispatched mainly by boats and aeroplanes. In use since the early 20th century, probably derived from the French expression “Venez m’aider!” (Come help me!).
For the choreographer and artistic director of MAYDAY, Mélanie Demers, the stage is a platform for performers to reflect as a group, a space for calling into question the role of the artist and the genre of theatre, and where our collective and individual fates are pondered. She does not subject audiences to accusatory harangues, nor does she wallow in a mood of sterile resignation: she simply draws our attention to the dark side of the human condition. Her works are at once a cry for help and a call for change. Hence the name MAYDAY: in the eyes of Mélanie Demers this word is imbued with equal parts hope and despair.
Since its foundation in 2007, an array of charismatic and eclectic artists working with Mélanie Demers has been drawn to MAYDAY as a hub for creative exchange and reflection. Some hail from Montréal, the company’s home base, others from around the world. Each MAYDAY work is thus the fruit of a collective effort. And not only between the artists: the public enters into the creative process as well, since the physicality, imagery, and sense of rhythm characteristic of MAYDAY’s unique approach only come together as a coherent whole before an audience.
Drawing on creative energies from around the world, MAYDAY’s unique works testify to both a spirit of artistic freedom and a deep-seated concern for contemporary issues. The company’s first piece, the duo Les Angles Morts, examines the way we perceive the world by focussing on those aspects of it that escape our awareness: things we prefer not to see, not to feel, or which we simply ignore, either driven by an instinct for survival or simply because it’s convenient for us to do so. Sauver sa peau / Sense of Self, created in collaboration with the choreographer Laïla Diallo, confronts stereotypes with a clarion call for freedom in an attempt to reconcile the idea of uniqueness with the notion of multiple identities. Junkyard/Paradise, a work for five dancers, explores the dual nature of the world and our capacity to enjoy life even as we are aware of its ability to alternately both redeem and horrify us. Mélanie Demers was at work again while Junkyard/Paradis was on tour and created Goodbye, a quartet which premiered at the Festival TransAmériques in May 2012. This labyrinthine work, at turns aesthetically pleasing and artistically grating, deconstructs performance practice and offers us a tasty little guide to saying farewell. Demers’ fascination and the relationship between words and gestures crystallizes in WOULD, a work which won the Prix du CALQ for Best Choreography at the Prix de la danse de Montréal in 2015. WOULD will be followed by the choreographic relay Danse Mutante in 2019, then in 2021 by La Goddam Voie Lactée, MAMA and Confession Publique, and finally in 2022 by Cabaret Noir.
MAYDAY tours frequently and has collaborated with many international partners. It is proud to be one of the few Canadian companies to have performed in both North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.