Dancing With Land: An Asynchronous Artist Panel


  • Alana Gerecke Simon Fraser University
  • Michelle Olson
  • Julie Lebel
  • Olivia C. Davies
  • OURO Collective
  • Lee Su-Feh


In this forum, I bring a set of five questions about dancing with land to five contemporary dance practitioners based in and around the city colonially known as Vancouver, constructed on the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəjˀəm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil Waututh) First Nations. The artists featured include Michelle Olson of Raven Spirit Dance, Julie Lebel of Foolish Operations, Olivia C. Davies of O.Dela Arts, the OURO Collective, and Lee Su-Feh of battery opera. The questions build on my ongoing research (both academic and artistic) into the politics and kinaesthetics of site- or land-based movement. I seek to spotlight the grounded, refined, and body-based knowledge that dancers and choreographers cultivate in the articulation of their practice. 

Author Biographies

Alana Gerecke, Simon Fraser University

Based in Vancouver, on the unceded traditional territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh nations, Alana Gerecke is a settler scholar, mother, and dance artist of mixed European descent. Her research examines the spatial politics of site-based dance. She is Artist-in-Residence at Vancouver’s Dance Centre and a 2021–22 Shadbolt Fellow at Simon Fraser University.

Michelle Olson

Michelle Olson is a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the artistic director of Raven Spirit Dance. She studied dance and performance at the University of New Mexico, attended the Aboriginal Arts Program at the Banff Centre, and was an ensemble member of Full Circle First Nations Performance. Michelle works in dance, theatre and opera as a choreographer, performer and movement coach, and her work has been seen across Canada. She was the recipient of the inaugural Vancouver International Dance Festival Choreographic Award and currently teaches movement at Studio 58 and the UBC Theatre Department.

Julie Lebel

Born and raised in north-eastern Québec, on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Innu Nation, from a family of settlers of French and Irish ancestry, Julie Lebel now gratefully lives and dances on the ancestral and unceded Indigenous territories of the xʷməθkʷəjˀəm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil Waututh) First Nations. She is a choreographer invested in intergenerational community-engaged dance, often in public space settings, involving musicians, visual artists, filmmakers and writers with a body of work spanning twenty years. She is the artistic director of Foolish Operations, connecting people of all generations through new dance experiences, especially with and for very young children, often in francophone or bilingual contexts. As a member of Lower Left Collective (USA, Germany, Norway, and Canada), she teaches and performs Ensemble Thinking. Julie is a proud mother of very active twin girls who act as first consultants in all of her creative endeavours.

Olivia C. Davies

Olivia C. Davies is an independent producer, consultant, and contemporary Indigenous dance artist who creates across choreography, installation, and community-engaged projects, exploring the emotional and political relationships between people and places, often investigating the body’s dynamic ability to transmit narrative. Her work traverses boundaries and challenges social prejudice, conveying concepts and narratives with creations and conceptual platforms that open different ways to see and experience the world. She honours her mixed Anishinaabe, French Canadian, Finnish, and Welsh heritage in her work. She is the artistic director of O.Dela Arts, Matriarchs Uprising Festival, and a founding member of Crow’s Nest Collective (Vancouver) and Circadia Indigena Arts Collective (Ottawa). www.oliviacdavies.ca

OURO Collective

OURO Collective (OURO) creates and produces new dance works on the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. OURO was founded in 2014 by Mark Siller, Dean Placzek, Maiko Miyauchi, Rina Pellerin, and Cristina Bucci. Fusing hip-hop, waacking, breaking, popping, and contemporary dance as their foundation, each street dancer has trained with the founders of their respective dance styles and brings specific knowledge to the group aesthetic. The collective aims to advance the public’s appreciation of street dance culture through dance classes and events/workshops, with a focus on youth engagement activities in smaller communities in BC and creating high-quality dance work for public presentation.

Lee Su-Feh

Lee Su-Feh is an artist whose work encompasses choreography, performance, teaching, dramaturgy, writing, and community organizing. Born and raised in Malaysia, she was indelibly marked by teachers who strove to find a contemporary Asian expression out of the remnants of colonialism and dislocated traditions. Since moving to Vancouver in 1988, Lee has created a body of work that interrogates the contemporary body as a site of intersecting and displaced histories and habits. In 1995 she co-founded battery opera performance with David McIntosh, and together they have led the company to earn a reputation for being “fearlessly iconoclastic,” producing award-winning works that take place in theatres, on the street, in hotel rooms, and in print.