In the studio with Mocean Dance

In the studio with Mocean Dance
15 for 15 - Mocean's 15th Anniversary Celebration, Photo by Michelle Doucette Photography

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Finding the Antidote

 How lucky are we?
As dancers, as artists, as humans to do something that feeds our soul everyday? 

To carry our canvas with us everyday making it always accessible. To have working bods, motor skills, and are overall well enough to get out of our bed and move. To have found the confidence and softness somewhere to realize that this is something that must be fled and pursued to make you feel whole (or something...). 

To have ultimately, above anything else, found the antidote. When I feel happy, I dance. When I feel sad, I dance. When I don't feel good about myself, I dance. When I feel a burst of confidence, I dance. When I don't feel anything at all, I dance. 

Visiting artist Rob Kitsos with 2017 EMERGE participants.

I was given the opportunity to participate in the 2017 "EMERGE" program and would like to take this opportunity to thank all involved. I feel I have gained two new sisters, two new mentors, and countless valuable lessons as a dancer, performer, human, and artist. I will take a little piece of this in my pocked everywhere I go. There aren't enough "thank you"-s in the whole wide world. 

~Joshua Moore 
Personal Reflection from Emerge Participant: Joshua Moore

Sunday, 16 April 2017

How Sensitive Are We?

How sensitive are we to the ways we move each day? This week in the studio with Emerge 2017, we dancers have been challenged by our choreographer to look intensely into the movement that we are making and the purpose behind it. Hands and eyes have seem to be drawn into the forefront of the main tools of expression and communication that I draw from throughout the work. I've noticed through this exploration how often we let the details and purpose of our articulation in space slide. 

Throughout these past two weeks there has been seven phrases of movement generated. Here is a look into the states and qualities that I have found myself in over this past week. 


My eyes are focused looking up to the body suspended above me. My peripheral vision is aware of the limbs in my sight line, moving to lower the body between our nestled bodies. My hands are soft and gooey awaiting for the gentle press of weight. My hands now strong and soft, creating a paradox as the body safely makes it to the floor.  

My eyes are flitting from point to point along the floor. My blinds are up as I'm in total concentration of figuring out the paths I must take. My hands are stiff as they firmly connect the destinations I am currently unaware of.  

My arms and hands are gnarled and twisted, much like old trees and branches sticking out every which way. I am stiff and tense standing tall as my eyes stare at the horizon.  

I am finding the similar patterns that I coast through daily, often boring and monotonous. My hands are finding the familiar routines. My eyes are easily distracted as my mind wanders to the next item on my to do list. 

My focus is wide as I am acutely aware with the people I am sharing the space with. I am waiting and ready as their actions propel my body into a responsive action.  

I am standing, fist point towards the sky, strong and triumphant as my gaze finds the eyes in front of me.   

My focus is lost as my body races the one's beside me. Bouncing from place to place as my body rolls and twists along the floor. My hands are quick and nimble as they maneuver my body and limbs through space

-Jessica Lowe
Emerge 2017 Dancer

Saturday, 15 April 2017


Gravity finds it’s way in.

My bones slide through spatial planes gaining momentum as they go. 

Like a tumbleweed in an old western movie I gather similar limbs to roll with me.

My focus contextualizes the space, seeking new initiation points to draw parallels between imagination and reality.

Wringing you in with the obvious point of a finger, I create a retraceable path.

My lungs listen to the pulse of the room. 

Expanding and deflating dynamics splash the suspension in between.  

My rhythm palpitates from the soles of my feet right through the roof of my mouth.


Shaking hands search my exterior to gather a better understanding of what’s happening inside.

My innards reminds me I am human, a collecting device of memories and moments.

My heart opens, 
connecting me to all the other life

I share this

-Olivia Aubrecht 
Emerge Participant 2017

Friday, 7 April 2017

Creating a dance is like making Craft Beer. We Nova Scotians love Craft Beer.

Like a fine craft beer the process of creating a dance takes time, patience, expertise and a love of the art form. To me, it is a craft honed by many years of trial and tribulation; and when you know it's good, you just know. The Emerge program has offered me the unique opportunity to take this time to learn new skills and experiment with various tools while a mentor guides myself and the chosen dancers through an exciting three weeks of crafting choreography.

First. Mashing
The barley is mashed to release the sugars which will turn into alcohol.
In my case the barley is some old habits I hang on to. From the top of the week I've been mashing out my common tendencies to derive movement that can become the base ingredient of the piece.

Second. Sparging
Rinse the barley to really sift out the sugar.
I know this is not always the most exciting part of creating dance, but sometimes that last bit of sweetness can make all the difference, so I sort through the material diligently; searching for the gold nuggets in all of the chaos of going on creative tangents to create movement.

Third. Boil
Boil the Wort (The liquid created from the first two steps) to kill any remaining micro-organisms. Hops can be added for a unique characteristic.
Is there any trace of my old habits? Is there any material I can let go of? Is there a phrase that contains traces that don't belong? I've hopefully fine tuned my eye and gut instinct so I can extract the unnecessary from the effective. Once I've determined the purity of the material I can now begin to mold it around my stylistic preference, eyeing the aesthetic to really hone in on the piece. In my case a thematic taste will be implemented into the mixture to add its unique flavour.

Fourth. Cool the Wort.
The wort needs to cool so it doesn't kill the yeast when added.
Let the dancers work through phrases so they can grasp them physically. It often takes a few runs through the same phrase for the physicality to settle into the movers' bodies. The dancers are after all, the piece and to care for the dancers so they too can connect to the material is of upmost importance to me.

Josh Moore, Jessica Lowe and Olivia Aubrecht in the studio Friday
during the first week of Emerge.
Fifth. Fermentation.
Add the yeast to release the carbon dioxide and turn the mixture into alcohol.
This is a lengthy process which is particularly important where the structure of the piece is created. Parts are assembled, material starts to make sense and becomes something more recognizable, where you can see that, in fact it will serve a purpose of communication through movement.

Sixth. Carbonation.
This is a very important part of the process where the flat beer is given bubbly life and taste.
This is my favourite part, where once a theme has revealed itself in the material I will breathe life into the material with minute details and compliment it with props, set design and make some final design choices, adding buoyancy to the piece in its entirety.

Seventh. Packaging.
Once the beer is finished it's ready to be packaged and shipped.
The piece becomes a show and the technicalities are put in order, marketing is done to draw an audience and tickets are sold. Time to sit back and simply enjoy.

-Kara Friesen. Emerge 2017 Choreographer
Personal Reflection from Emerge Participant: Kara Friesen

Thanks to: Home Brew Academy "How Beer is Made"

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Reflecting on Canvas 5 x 5

Canvas 5x5 is one of Mocean’s most beloved pieces and, among many other feelings, our hearts are warmed immensely to have this piece be shortlisted for the Masterworks Prize. This is only the second time that dance has been on the shortlist, and we are so glad to see that such multidisciplinary juries and the greater public embraces the magic of dance, and it’s power to move the audience with works that are technically rich, emotionally charged and on the avant garde of exploring the mysteries of human potential, ephemeral beauty, and community.

The artists at Mocean have taken time to reflect on the honour of having been shortlisted for this illustrious award and on the process of creating Canvas 5 x 5 all those years ago. Being nominated for something like the Masterworks award gives the opportunity to think about what the piece means and how the process of creating it affected the artists, much more than a remount would inspire. It’s easy, in day to day life, to forget how important it is to take a step back and look at the community that artwork creates, the sense of being and belonging. 

“This is fantastic that Canvas 5 x 5 is shortlisted. The work that we did and the fact that so many have seen it, particularly in the Maritimes is already enough tribute. So to be shortlisted for this fantastic award is truly a gift. It is not often in a contemporary choreographer's career that one's work is recognized to such an extent. It was such a pleasure to make for Mocean Dance and without everyone's collaboration it would not be the work it is.”

-Tedd Robinson, Choreographer

Tedd Robinson, during the creation of Canvas 5 x 5 in 2012.

“As a dancer in Canvas 5 x 5 I am honored to be a finalist for the Masterworks Award.  Canvas 5 x 5 is a very special piece to dance and to witness.  Through performing it I feel a deep connection to my Maritime roots -- It has an extraordinary ability to evoke images, stir feelings, and rouse memories for me as a performer and for many who witness it, like a ‘canvas’ onto which we experience our shared humanity. From performing it in many places it is clear that Canvas 5 x 5 is a work that is deeply moving and inspiring to audiences, so I’m pleased that it is being celebrated through this nomination. I am also very proud that Mocean Dance and its artists and collaborators are being recognized for our artistic work and contribution to professional dance in Nova Scotia.”

- Susanne Chui, Dancer and Co-Artistic Director

“Being a finalist for the Masterworks award is a great honour. I am very proud, not only for my individual role in the piece, but for recognition of the collective achievement of the performers, the choreographer, and the company.

I love the joys and challenges of this particular piece, and I love being a part of Tedd Robinson's body of work. Through this dance, I feel connected to other dances and other dancers across the country and across time.  One of the most rewarding aspects of dancing in Canvas 5x5 is the feeling of truly being part of an ensemble. Without each of us- individually and together- the piece could not exist as it is. For me, this is a particularly meaningful metaphor for our local dance community, where each person's contribution is a vital part of the whole.”

- Jacinte Armstrong, Dancer

“Dance is an artistic collaboration between the choreographer and the dancer. It is the dancers job to embody the choreographer’s vision and artistic pursuit. The dancer then uses their skill, talent, and artistry to interpret that vision into performance. To be recognized as a masterwork in performance is one of the highest honors. The title comes with mastering the artistry and subtle nuance of the choreography. Recognition of this sort is truly an artists/dancer/performers career highlight.”

- Ruth-Ellen Kroll Jackson, Dancer

“Canvas 5 x 5 was my first contract with Mocean Dance. I am almost without words left to harvest from that time, that might allude to how being recognized as a performer in a masterwork makes me feel. Although I am much further from the realities that gave event to what is called Canvas 5 x 5, I am left with a reminder of beginnings and homecomings.

I encountered Tedd Robinson’s work (and the man himself), albeit briefly, while in Nova Scotia just before departing for my professional dance training. While at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre I watched my peers dance his work, and subsequently, travel to Ottawa for the Canada Dance Festival to perform in tandem with schools from around the country. I witnessed him perform his own work onstage in Toronto, and finally in 2012, through happenstance, I was offered a contract from Mocean Dance to work with Tedd Robinson, a Canadian dance icon. “A master, teaches essence” …when this essence is perceived, the master then teaches what is necessary to expand perception. 

Tedd Robinson is a master of his work, and of communicating the essence of that work to collaborating artists. Through a rigorous process at L.A B.A.R.N, Tedd developed this work not only through form, but through laughter, and through acknowledgement and respect of the resonating dissonance between each of us. He imparted a knowledge of form that I could then use to employ my body to speak; how to fold and toss the cloth, how to glide behind a veil of serenity, how to build and burden, and begin again. With each beginning we are ourselves, calling to something else. Held to each other by tradition, held to ourselves by counterpoint. Contained by what we are through form, drawn back to who we are by rhythm. Drawn back to each other, through a calling.”

- Rhonda Baker, Dancer

From L.A. B.A.R.N. creative process in 2012

During the creation of Canvas 5 x 5 I was interim Artistic Director for the company, a creative consultant to Tedd Robinson in the studio, and I have also been the main rehearsal director for the piece since the premiere in 2012. It was an honour to work with Tedd and to support the Mocean dance artists and the creative team in bringing Canvas 5 x 5 to fruition.

It is an honour to be a finalist for the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award, both for the company and for the recognition of the individual Mocean dance artists who have contributed to the creation and performance of Canvas 5 x 5 over the years. All of these creators contribute to the continued vitality living within the piece. It is particularly fitting that a nomination celebrating Mocean’s artistic work comes this season, as the company celebrates its 15th Anniversary in 2016-2017. 

Mocean has work tirelessly, fueled by our passion for performance and the potential of the creative gesture to spark the imagination, to craft and hone our skills as dance artists, and to become a sustainable anchor organization for the region for dance. Most importantly, we strive to bring contemporary dance, the power and delights of embodiment and imagination, to many Atlantic Canadian communities. Canvas 5 x 5, with all of its delightful and moving images, has been a key vehicle for this exchange, and we are pleased to honour the strength of this work and the company. 

- Sara Coffin, Rehearsal Director for Canvas 5 x 5 and Co-Artistic Director

Photos by Holly Crooks

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