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

Monday, 3 December 2012

Happy Valley - Goose Bay

The company has just returned from Labrador after a whirlwind of activity. It all began on Nov. 20th when Jacinte Armstrong and I travelled to Happy Valley - Goose Bay to take part in the 37th Labrador Creative Arts Festival, Canada's longest running children's arts festival. We were there along with 11 other artists from across Canada - writers, actors, visual artists, musicians, a folklorist and even a make-up artist - to teach workshops to students from schools across Labrador, who travelled to Goose Bay to present original plays that they wrote, directed and performed. Over the week-long festival Jacinte and I taught workshops to hundreds of students from Grade one up to high school and we also travelled to Lake Melville School, in North West River, and Sheshatshui Innu School in Upper Lake Melville.

Our young dance group.
Some of the other artists also travelled by plane to coastal schools in more remote areas of the province. Jacinte and I stayed in town to work with a lovely group of local, young dancers  after school each day.

We set a piece of Jacinte's choreography, Chain Link Again, on the dancers and gave them extensive coaching (they should all know how to find their hip sockets now!). After a short rehearsal of our own and a quick dinner, we headed back to the theatre each night to attend the student's plays and watch 'cameo' appearances by the visiting artists.

Our billet, Jake Leyte
Jacinte and I at the Sheshatshui Innu School
The theme of the festival was 'transformation' and it was fascinating to see what the students came up with under this theme. Many of the plays centred around the changes that are happening in their communities, including the clash of old and new, and the impact technology is having on culture and tradition. All of the plays were unique and were very touching to watch. Afterwards the fun kept going into the night, as we were treated to parties each night in the homes of the committee members and friends of the festival. We had a fantastic time enjoying the wholehearted hospitality of the people of Goose Bay, who drove us around, fed us, entertained us, (lent us a treadmill) and made us feel completely welcomed. A big shout out to our billet Jake Leyte, looked after us so well and kept us laughing the whole time.

The festival has an amazing spirit of positivity and respect towards youth and art that is utterly inspiring. I was sad to see the festival come to an end, and say goodbye to the fellow artists, but for us it was not over yet.

The official festival button!
Fiona Anderson, Festival Co-ordinator and Tim Borlase, Festival Founder

Rhonda staying warm in style!

On Wednesday, Ruth, Rhonda and Marcel joined us to prepare for our show on Nov. 30th. After a quick remount rehearsal at the local gym, while Marcel transformed the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre stage, we got into the theatre and began getting ready for the show. This was a very special event for community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay as it was the first ever full-length professional dance performance in the community. On the program was Lisa Phinney Langley's duet, Beside Myself, Gasping, with video image by Rohan Fernando, the student dancers performing Jacinte's piece, Chain Link Again, and this season's signature work Canvas 5x5  by Tedd Robison, with guest piper Steve Gregory. The show was a great success, attended by over 120 people (apparently double the usual amount for a event like this), many of whom were students and people we had connected with through the festival. In the post show talk we enjoyed hearing from the audience, who were curious about the works and what it was like to perform. Many commented afterwards that they enjoyed the show, and that they wished there were more performances like this one.

Student photo exhibit in the lobby of the theatre.

Beautiful painted clay artwork created by students on display in the lobby of the theatre.
Being in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and taking part in the festival and the performance have been a very memorable experiences. A big thanks to Kathleen & John Hicks, Fiona Anderson, Tim Borlase and the Labrador Creative Arts Festival committee and volunteers for their incredible dedication and hard work, to the staff and volunteers of the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre, and a special thanks to Jake Leyte, Deb Gill, Tracy Leal & Robyn Spracklin Webber and family.

Next stop on the tour - Miramichi, New Brunswick in February!

- Susanne Chui

Our reverse interview with Byron from CBC.

Jacinte, Rhonda and Marcel hitting the town.

The hotel.

The Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre

Goodbye Goose Bay!