In the studio with Mocean Dance

In the studio with Mocean Dance
Photo by Michelle Doucette Photography

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Looking Back as We Move Ahead

I’m writing this post in the Mocean Dance office that is...not huge, but which is a lot bigger than the one we had when I started, where the three of us would spin around in our chairs for a meeting and be centimeters away from touching knees, but still close to bumping the desks behind us; I can’t help but like this image of physical growth, of taking up more space, in tandem with the less tangible place Mocean has grown into in the last 15 years. 

fifteen, though it is a celebration of where we are today and what we’re looking toward, also has a strong pull back; we’ve been digging through the archives all summer and asking everyone from the founders to today’s emerging dancers what they think, hope, and remember about Mocean. We’ve got a crew downstairs filming interviews with the community as I type. What I’ve seen this summer, and what I’ve noticed in my short year and a half with the company, is a truly inspiring and humbling growth. I have the immense pleasure and privilege of working with a group of artists (mostly kick-ass women, just throwing that out there) who are pouring so much passion and talent into this community, and in the legacy of five founders whose dedication to this company and place truly blows me away; 15 years of dreams and dedication, fun and sacrifice in equal measure, have created a growth with such momentum that I cannot imagine a force on earth strong enough to stop it.

Here are some highlights from the community reflection on Mocean’s 15th Anniversary, when asked to share or comment on a moment from Mocean’s history:

A decision to proceed with our first show knowing that none of us would get paid for the rest of the year. - Carolle Crooks Fernando (Co-Founder)

The day that this lovely group of young women came into Live Art to talk about their formation of a company! I think it must have been 2002! - Sally Morgan

When Sara Coffin and Susanne Chui took over Mocean Dance people could feel a change was coming. Suddenly the professional dance community began to grow, stay and permeate. Sara and Sue committed to the incentive of their outreach program leaving Halifax dancers hopeful for a dance future in their city. - Olivia Aubrecht

[Seeing Canvas 5x5 upon moving back to Halifax:] Some amount of that performance comforted me, helped me realize that Halifax was a different place than when I had left, helped me realize that I was a different person than when I had left. The community had shifted, the resources were available, you just had to reach out and find them. Dancers were making room for themselves, and Mocean was paving the way for that. I felt empowered, I realized that I could make things happen, I could be a part of these dramatic shifts, in my own ways and through supporting others. - Kathleen Doherty

During the CLEAR Forum 2015 in which I participated as a dancer, we were discussing the future of dance in Halifax. I was gracefully invited into the community when Sara turned to me saying “You are the future of dance in Halifax” This statement inspired in me a new responsibility to carry on the tradition of contemporary dance in Atlantic Canada. Now I view the community with a much larger lens, understanding that Mocean Dance stands for surviving as a dancer through this gritty and unforgiving Environment, not for individual glory but for the importance of representing our culture through dance. - Kara Friesen

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Our lungs push - I am still here, we survive and thrive

When we created Sable Island, it was my first big foray back into the studio since having my son. It would be my first time working with both Mocean and Serge. I was nervous and excited all at once about putting myself back into such a physically demanding role.  As expected/hoped, the work was intensely physical, the creation process was inspiring, demanding and rewarding, the finished product was truly something to be proud of. 

Photo Credits - Michelle Doucette

I remember walking onto the stage on opening night, lining up alongside the other dancers and thinking "I am still here. I still get to do this." And in that way, I find Sable Island so beautifully relatable. In the same way those wild horses keep surviving and thriving, so does our dance community and its artists, and so do I, even within this new dynamic of dancer and mother combined.

I am enormously proud of this piece. We all are. There is no doubting the physical demand of Serge's work. Our lungs push hard and our bodies sweat. In the final image of the piece, in the moment before the lights fade to black, when I am standing alongside the other four dancers, there is always a sense of accomplishment and gratification. Our bodies can do this. We can push them this hard, ask this much of them, and they respond. We are so incredibly fortunate to be allowed to work in these dancing bodies. I am grateful for this work, with its complex imagery and its steady drive, and I could not be more excited to share Sable Island with our friends and colleagues from across Canada at CDF this year.
Photo Credits: Holly Crooks

Immersive and Demanding: where is my weight and the internal landscape of imagery

Returning to Sable Island this year to prepare for CDF I have been reminded over and over again how this is the hardest piece I have ever done. So physical, and always demanding more- more weight, more risk, more lunge, more cells involved in the action, more power, more sensitivity, more pushing, more letting go. You have to dig into it. Peel away the layers of yourself, and face it, as Serge says.  We have been rehearsing for about 3 hours a day, but it takes me another 7 to warm-up and cool down (a constant process), and I'm still sore everyday. The muscles are working,  pushing, digging. I am thankful for being involved in this piece that is so immersive and demanding of my every attention.

Photo Credits: Michelle Doucette
What a beautiful thing to be completely wrapped up in, together with an ensemble of wonderful, complex, dedicated dancers, and Serge. But it also frustrates me, because being in this piece is so demanding of me that I have little capability for attention to anything else while we are working on it.
Photo Credit: Michelle Doucette
My favourite part of dancing the piece is actually the internal landscape of imagery that gets created by doing it. I like when my body is dancing, and my mind, like a bird flying over a canyon, is free to see and feel around me. I love when the imagination of where I am, where we are, what elements are driving us, just appears through the words, sounds, movements of the piece. I have an elaborate and colourful inner narrative that is my own. But we're also a herd, a pack, an ensemble. Every flinch, shift, flicker felt by all. 

Photo Credit Holly Crooks
Right now it's the morning. I'm about to have a coffee and begin the warm-up process for today. I've already started filtering through- how are my shoulders, back, hips? Where is my weight today? How are the feet? the mind?  I will wake-up the core, attend to my neck, put on some rain gear and walk to the studio. Happy Monday.

Photo Credit Holly Crooks

Monday, 23 May 2016

To keep living, to keep pushing - to have courage

Before an event occurs, there is a unearthly quiet. A deep vibrational hum can be felt as forces press upon once seemingly unrelated elements; thrusting a new existence into the front of consciousness. Sable Island is a transcendence, a survival from one moment to the next. It is a place where the vast intensities that dwell inside of me can speak. 
Photo by Michelle Doucette, Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Mocean Dance

Sable Island lives in a mythical place and time. It is a harsh reality of elemental and undeniable forces, that reminds me of how our existing realities play upon and affect each other. That we can be hard or we can be kind, but eventually we all compile into something much larger than I can speak of. 

Photo by Michelle Doucette, Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Mocean Dance
Sable Island gives me hope. To keep living, to keep pushing, to keep resisting, to concede, to continue breathing, to have courage. To erase myself, until nothing but the purest of form is left. It is continually humbling to have this body, this life, and this dance. 

~Rhonda Baker

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The time is here, being present where you are exactly needed

About 18 years ago I saw a piece of Serge Bennathan at Maison de la culture du Plateau Mont-Royal, and I wanted to do that work, the room was small but the dancer transcended the space.

Then time pass by, life got busy, and I did not pursue that idea.

Then about 5 years ago, Sheilagh Hunt brought Serge to Halifax to do a workshop with Kinetic Studio.  I enjoy to be in the studio with him, he gives 200% no concessions, he is very generous, his movement are full nervous system and elastic.

Then I was suppose to dance in a creation that Serge did a couple years later, I was very excited, finally!  But I got pregnant with Camille (4 now), then I was suppose to be part of the creation of Sable Island, but I had a schedule conflict with my work with Danièle Desnoyer... It is like if I was never going to collaborate with Serge.

But at last Oscar saved me, and I am replacing Susanne, because he wants her fully to himself.

So I am very looking forward to put all of those moves in my body, and mostly sharing the studio and work with Serge and (almost) all of my Haligonians friends. Also I do love the Canada Dance Festival and Ottawa, and we are going to rock the stage over there with a powerful work, danced by the cream of Halifax!

Elise and her Haligonian friends in the studio!

In studio prep before the arrival of Serge!

Little Oscar, Mocean Baby #12 taking Susanne aside for Elise to dance with Sable Island

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

waves beating my heart like a drum

Re-Visiting Sable Island:

a year later, aging cells that still hold together, tenacity persists, a deeper understanding.

I remember the poetry of images that floated through the studio, the rhythm of vocal love, the question of hanging on, and the feeling of being a part of something that is larger than me. These are gifts, and gifts that return to me.

The timing of working with Serge initially within my personal path was very transformative.

I had just returned home to Halifax after being away for two years doing my masters. In that time I had never challenged myself so much mentally, physically and creatively, but I was also always in my front brain, driving the search forward. Within Sable Island I had to transform myself into an energetic and spiritual vessel that was larger than myself. I was in my back brain, earth body, a place of deep visceral necessity and beauty. This is the magic of the piece and its gift for me as an artist.

What is the now? Well its still fresh and the door opening.

But I feel a sense of groupness that is one breathing lung versus five individual s.o.s signals occurring at the same time. This excites me, I want to feel more of this. Time and distance - yields wonders for perspective. 

Photo by Holly Crooks

Photo by Holly Crooks

~ Sara C.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

a little honesty

We made something bigger than the work.  It was about the about.  Thoughts and discussions.  One thread revealing a hundred new thoughts.  Placing the last puzzle piece only to realize the finished puzzle in its totality was but a piece in a much larger scrambled yet happy mess that may never be solved.  Different pieces/ideas when placed in tandem will certainly reveal something unique.  Endless possibilities and configurations.  Everything speaks more when placed somewhere new and with someone new. 

Photo: Rhonda Baker
“Phrases came, visions came.  Beautiful pictures, beautiful phrases.” 
– Virginia Woolf

It was a beautiful, shared experience.  Without divulging all, keeping part of our gem hidden, I will share my want/believe/wish/love statement from our final improvisation.  This week, this place, these people helped me find this truth so very clearly.

“I believe dance requires a generosity and an honesty.”

To you all, I am very grateful.
Photo: Rhonda Baker