Mocean's annual choreographic lab CLEaR Forum, Photo by Kevin MacCormack

Thursday 23 May 2019

Seven Years and the Crop Still Keeps on Giving (thankfully!)

I’ve just returned from Mocean’s annual choreographic lab - CLEaR Forum, it is one of my favorite programs that Mocean offers in the company’s season mix.  As I process this year’s unfoldings I decide to write a few words.  I don't even know if "blogging" is still a thing/relevant?  ..... Who knows, I do know I care about CLEaR Forum and archiving the program's existence is important to me.  So I write, I write a few words from my perspective, as really this is the only true statements that I have in relationship to this program and my work with the company.

This season overall for Mocean has been a development year, we started the creation of a new work, we offered two professional development programs; CLEaR Forum and Next Wave in which process was the focus and not outcome, we dove into the construction of new three-year strategic plan, and we hired two new contract staff and three new dancers this season. She is a garden in a flow of germination, a series of catalysts in action with fruition yet to come. Having time in the country by the ocean during the lab I finally have had a chance to feel all the potential that is at work. I am in awe, exhausted, and full of gratitude and anticipation of what’s to come.

Each year Mocean invites six artists and one guest creative facilitator to the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS for an artist residency experience. This year we welcomed guest facilitator Lee Su-Feh (Vancouver) and dance artists Justin De Luna (Montreal), Sarah Joy Stoker (St. John’s), Nyd Kwasowsky (Toronto), with Anastasia Wansbrough, Lydia Zimmer, and Anastasia Wiebe (Halifax). During the lab, we live together in an old farm house that has extreme amounts of character, we eat together via meals provided by the centre’s resident chef, and we work together in the studios which is an old dairy farm that has been converted into a new art centre… that is now close to twenty years old amazingly.  The cows once grazed, slept and shat in now what is called the studios.  One could argue that energetically the weight of these animals is still felt in the studio today – the heat of their bodies and excrement, the slow chew of their cud, etc. there is a certain rhythm at the centre that one cannot deny and I wonder if it is from the energy of the centre’s previous life.  I say this because at CLEaR Forum artists and the group body have time to stand still together, eat together, reflect on our personal and group shit, and move at a pace that is refreshingly slow but very profound and state changing.

This year was the lab’s seven year. To date we have welcomed 42 dance artists and seven guest facilitators to this gem of a spot in rural Nova Scotia at the edge of the sea. Thinking about impact of the week, my reflections also take me to the longitudinal impact of the program. I smile.  Just last week I received an email from a past participant who started research at the lab in 2016 and continues a revival of her project today with showing of her research hosted by Older and Reckless in Toronto the same week of our lab in 2019.

As program director and part of the facilitation team I simultaneously feel empowered and am scared shitless for the duration of the week. Each year, I feel empowered or inspired as I am reminded how the lab is in service of dance as a whole. The lab provides resources, networks, and calculated and happenstance outcomes that is all directed to the betterment of the artist. I am also scared shitless as I never know what is going to happen. Through a selection process co-created annually with the guest facilitator six artists who know very little about each other are invited to the middle of nowhere in Nova Scotia to unpack their creative practice and habits. I am responsible for the group’s well-being in a quirky and destabilizing context. I always hold my breath a little until I feel where the group and questions will land and what paths present themselves that may need following or not.  Without fail, once the group lands and the desire paths reveal themselves, I can exhale a little and only worry about tick checks and firewood supply after that.

I am grateful for the fiery support offered by Lee Su-Feh this year, I could really lean into her as a facilitator as I trust her instincts and deeply respect the value of her perspective. Su-Feh brought an ease and playfulness to the group as well as rigour and no shit excuses attitude.
Su-Feh told me that she could also lean into me, which was really nice to hear and to know that my instinct and expertise is felt by my peers and those more established then me. I really enjoyed the mix of our two playful spirits and serious research nerd habits colliding together easefully.

In the studio, year seven of the program, a shedding of the skin happened across the board. Unravel, re-birth, new skin it all happened in both research groups. The focal point of one group was grief and loss (Sarah Joy Stoker) and the other was joy and sanctuary (Justin De Luna). Complimentary research from the opposite end of the spectrums. The common thread that both groups shared was courage and patience. It revealed itself in different forms, but their persistence and presence were steady to allow for new unfoldings to occur. We practiced listening, not knowing, formulating and refining questions but not rushing to answer them, releasing tears without judgement, wands and fires were made, drawings were practiced, and a spontaneous polar bear swim erupted. It was a good week.

A special thank you to Kathleen who cooked for us all week, Buddy the dog and the resident porcupine who brought us smiles, and to Executive Director Chris O’Niell for our longstanding relationship and hosting the lab in the magical place known as Ross Creek.

~Sara Coffin
Photos by Anastasia Wansbrough

Thoughts from a Ross Creek Virgin

open air boundless 
the yolk of sunrise 
into yellows across the horizon
a sea of Fundy and fuchsia
with waves like clouds

porcupine bundles waddle
in the grass
a minefield of ticks
each step stepped 
a risk

energy and creation 
in and out a jumble 
of thoughts and impulse
and ocean bed rocks

each one as special
as the next one-in-a-million
the clouds blow in and out
and we move
with them


~Rachel Franco

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Ice Hot Nordic Dance Platform

Susanne and I just returned from Reykjavik attending the Ice Hot Nordic Dance Platform.

It is so invigorating to be on the road together to see new work, take in new dance communities, and let our ideas flow about our own context, both for the company and the Halifax dance community that we are a part of.

Iceland had lots to offer us.  Her beauty is outstanding, even despite only having sunlight from 11am-3pm!  I definitely want to go back in the summer months to experience the landscape in the daylight and 24hrs of sun.  

The Nordic Dance Platform is a four day festival featuring artists and companies from Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.  Iceland sits at the 65' parallel.. Nova Scotia sits at 45' parallel. Strangely enough, we were traveling during a winter heat wave and it was colder back in Halifax than in Iceland.
During the festival we met many new artists, producers, and presenters, eyeing new ways to open our networks in new ways and create new conversations for exchange and artistic development.  We also ran into old friends Paul Caskey and Andrew Tay from CCOV (Centre de Création O Vertigo) with Elise Vanderborght! Elise and I were star Canadian students and took part in every dance class that was offered over the festival.
Paul Caskey hiding in the Lave Fields of Iceland
Also in our traveling Canadian pack was Heidi Strauss (Adelheid) and Michelle Olsen (Raven Spirit Dance). The three of us were hosted by Canadian arts consultants Judy Harquail and Jim Smith. At the festival, with their help, we were able to do an informal presentation about our work and the company with four Nordic artists and a mix of Canadian and Nordic platform presenters. Later in the week we also took part in the official Meet the Canadians Party... which was a jammed pack house, complete with all the wine we could carry from every duty free location as we made our way north. It was a group Canadian effort to supply 25 bottles of wine for free flow schmoozing and networking.  

Diorama by Ingrid Fiksdal of Norway 

Time, Humour and Darkness....
The work we experienced really related to the sense of time and space that the Nordic landscape offers. Most of the work took place in a suspended time flow space, required patience from the audience and had a slow unfolding. Humour was also a strong influence in many of the works that we saw. In this context the humour was very cerebral, dry, or academic. Another common theme was how the rich history of  the 'dark and twisted Sagas from Iceland' embeds it's influences into the artistic psyches and art making practices of Iceland.

It is interesting to view new works outside of our own context to see what is the driving nature of making from this place and where our work sits in reference to this. On a whole it was a rich experience, however we were slightly disappointed in the lack of deep embodiment or that the physical self/body knowledge wasn't at the same level as the cerebral pulse driving most of the works.

Before I returned home I escaped to the wilderness and hiked the glacier mountain Esja. Here the land moved me. The sight of the mountains and the flow of the glacier waterfalls continually feed me artistically and as a humble human. Thank you Iceland.


Friday 30 November 2018

Next Wave - a digital archive

For the past three weeks we have gathered as a collective to find new ground and question many things about the act of making, identity, and community. Sharing practice and the practice of sharing have been a common thread, the glue in our daily rituals and emergent forms. Sticky notes as a key organizing structure with a steady stream of chocolate and coffee surfaced as the shared comfort tool. Listening, propositioning, finding direction through many different compasses, pushing boundaries, the collective expansion of ideas, and challenging relational fields led us to confront vulnerability and gave us the courage and the will to follow the unknown together. Research is the act of posing a question and seeing what happens, conclusions are the attempt to find comfortable ground. Here the ground is unsteady, the research field is open and the desire to continue into the unknown, together is strong.

re·search       /ˈrēˌsərCH,rəˈsərCH/
1.   the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. synonyms: investigation, experimentation, testing, analysis, fact-finding, fieldwork, examination, scrutiny
2.     investigate systematically

com·mu·ni·ty             /kəˈmyo͞onədē/
1.   a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
synonyms: group, body, set, circle, clique, faction

2.   a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

e·mer·gent                 /əˈmərjənt/
in the process of coming into being or becoming prominent. synonyms: emerging, developing, rising, dawning, budding, embryonic, infant, fledgling, nascent, incipient, inchoate


Reflections from the process

It is very satisfying to do something tangible.
Everyday, every moment we are building and taking down walls together. We all have different walls. Sometimes it is the same wall.

Completion and self reliance is overrated.
I’m following, I’m leading. I’m 1/7 of an ever changing wall.
Suspending disbelief that nothing will be built.
Letting go of responsibility to build.
I am not alone.

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity ... When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.   - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

...A gentle soft smile falls across your face... The intimacy and depth of many ecological relational fields crossing is the dance... A room of women who hold space and take space is a beautiful thing...

being in the space is shared is shareable is not mine nor my story to tell, but together we push our bones across the pages and singularity that is our nature; under the waters are winter’s blemishes and fear of the raging furious singularity that is my story to tell.

Photos by Kevin MacCormack

Next Wave 2019 Participants: Susanne Chui, Sara Coffin, Jessica Lowe, Julie Robert, Liliona Quarmyne, Anastasia Wiebe, Lydia Zimmer

Next Wave is supported by the RBC Emerging Artist Project and the City of Halifax.

Thursday 17 May 2018

Our group content is found in the sediment of our cells

Vancouver artist, Lexi Vajda

Tools speaking, content forming.
Encroaching, circling, transmitting and a contagion.
Knitting and unraveling simultaneously with a logic expressing through three bodies.

The trap of the triangle eventually dissolves.
Effort, grounded, hands doing something real

A vocabulary in action with the action outcome unknown, a journey of discovery unfolds.

Pleasurable delights of synchronicity. Bulking, Poetic images of a work at play.

A base rhythm – trance and steady, surprises still present.

Huddle, Floor, Pull, Deepen

End of day sharing, Wednesday - Day 3 - S. Coffin

Monday 14 May 2018


CLEaR Monday waking up to the bright, open, quiet grounds. fresh air, coffee. fresh mind.

notes from movement session:

inwards honing open body 
copycat into the movement, the body knows.
we are verbingmovingthinking
warm bodies spilling into and out of
spike pig walks
we sand the obstacles until round
playing this dance, patiently waiting in time
this is ross creek time
our distracted attention invites an enfolding world, it dances us
this, do we feel
the movement, the moment?
we try to smell the colours.
this belongs to us
autonomy of attention
vs. facebook 
Only150Characters, 150(+1) years since confederation 
the history of the land we practice on, the land we breathe here 
it's face topography
my funny cheeks joyful

we hope for a porcupine.

CLEaR Forum Arrivals - some traces