Being a backup dancer for Nelly Furtado ruined Sebastian Mena’s life. It’s not that the queer indie choreographer didn’t have some good times travelling the world for a couple of years while shakin’ his thang behind the Canuck pop diva. But the hectic schedule and being out of the city so much pretty much killed any shot he had at maintaining a successful relationship. “I was such a mess trying to have all these long-distance relationships while I was on the road,” Mena says. “Just ask any of the other dancers I was touring with and they’ll tell you how sick they were of hearing me talk about it.”
If there’s an upside to the whole scenario it’s that Mena was able to use the heartbreak he experienced as fodder for his new dance piece Monster Feelings, opening this week at the Dancemakers Centre for Creation. “I knew I needed to channel all that emotion into something productive,” he says. “So I took the money I made on tour and decided to do my very own show.”
The process began in July when Mena returned from touring only to be dumped by his most recent boyfriend. He wrote the guy a letter just intending to get a few things off his chest, but after it was finished there was an unexpected result. “I’m not a writer by any means, but I read the letter after I finished it and there was so much raw and genuine emotion there I felt like I could turn it into a dance piece.”
Monster Feelings melds theatre and dance to tell the story of overly dramatic Latino artist Mark Consuleos (a thinly veiled version of Mena that he performs himself) and Kelly, the boy who dumps him. “It’s an absurd look at the feelings people, gay or straight, face when dealing with a breakup,” Mena says. “The first half of the piece uses more traditional modern dance and then the second half loosens up a bit, incorporating more street styles.”
Accompanying them are Zion Forrest Lee, from the local performance-art band Boytech, who plays a narcissistic rock star, Much Music VJ Sarah Taylor, as the therapist who tries to help the two sort out their relationship, as well as local dance scene faves Matthew Waldie, Kate Hilliard, Mariana Canales and Jackie Buckly. The evening also features the duet Brothers on a Hotel Bed choreographed by Susie Burpee and danced by Mena and Waldie, queer choreographer DA Hoskins’ solo I Am Marilyn, and a new solo by Waldie called Numbing.
Though Monster has the character of Consuleos at its centre, Mena admits it’s very much his own story he’s presenting for public consumption. “I wondered initially whether I was going to come out and ac-tually say the piece is about something I went through as opposed to saying that it’s fictional,” he says. “I worried at first that I might be revealing too much of myself, but then I decided I needed to put my balls on the line and say to the audience ‘This is me. This is my life.'”