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

Friday, 1 March 2013

Making Fresh Tracks in Miramichi

Scenic view from our hotel
I was lucky enough to join Mocean on their tour to Miramichi as a part of the Fresh Tracks! Mentorship program. The company was presented by Conseil communautaire Beausoleil, a French presenter  located within a small francophone area of Miramichi. The building was multipurpose to the extreme, containing a theatre, a primary to grade 12 school, art galleries and even the local French radio station. You could sense the pride of the people working in the building upon entering, and that feeling seemed to fuel the dancers even more to deliver a fantastic show.
View of the theatre from on stage
Mocean performed Tedd Robinson’s work Canvas 5 x 5 and a duet recently premiered in Halifax by Lesandra Dodson, A Leash for two Hounds. The show was part of a dance festival, the first one to ever take place in the city, so it was very exciting to be a part of that important step for the community.
The first stop upon arriving at Carrefour Beausoleil was to lead some dance workshops. Susanne and I led an adult beginner level class, with Rhonda assisting. We all had a fantastic time sharing our love of dance with the beginner dancers, exploring different qualities of movement and different ways to travel through the space. Next a local dance school stopped by for a workshop, and Rhonda took the lead on this one. The 20 dancers, aged 10-17 did an incredible job listening to Rhonda’s instruction and trying new movement such as floor work, improvisation, personal groove and group exercises. CBC Radio Canada visited while the workshops were taught; they interviewed Jacinte about the upcoming performance, and also spoke to some adults who took the beginner workshop. They also got some great footage of both workshops which was aired on the CBC TV and the CBC website. 
Students from Valley High School
Our second day in Miramichi brought us to Miramichi Valley High School, where Jacinte and Ruth led workshops for some grade 9 and 10 French immersion classes. The students were very energetic and eager to give dance a try, which made it all the more fun for us to teach. Ruth created a dance piece with different traveling patterns that the students performed for each other at the end, and we were happy to see the teachers getting involved as well!   

L-R: Kathleen, Rhonda, Ruth, Susanne, Darryl, Jacinte
That evening, the Canvas 5 x 5 crew headed to the theatre for a technical rehearsal. Watching the dancers work with the canvases on stage is always interesting. Every new space creates a new way for the canvas to behave, if there is a breeze or draft on stage that can work either for or against the dancers. The group of four all seem to have the handling and adapting down by now, a skill I believe I started to improve upon, but I always welcomed helpful tips and advice from the dancers. The wooded frame around the stage seemed to create a picture frame type image while the dancers were performing, almost recreating some of the photos taken at the Dunn Theatre over a year ago by Holly Crooks. The clean, crisp white canvas soaring through the stark black space was beautiful, and made the images stand out quite a bit more than in the studio.  Darryl and Lesandra arrived in the evening, and dropped by the theatre to say hello and check out the space. It was nice to have the whole Miramichi team together!
Susanne & Darryl having fun during tech

Show day found the company starting off with a lovely warm up class led by Darryl. I joined in on the warm up, as I love taking Darryl’s class, and also because taking a class on stage always reminds me of the times I have done that for my own performances, which is such a nice feeling. Susanne and Darryl started teching A leash for two hounds with Lesandra. I hung around to watch the process, as did some students from the school we were hosted in. The students were extremely well behaved, and really seemed engaged in what was happening on stage. I had seen the duet performed in Halifax a few weeks prior, but I always love getting to see works again -- you always find new things within the choreography that you missed the first time. It was nice watching Susanne and Darryl communicate with each other and work together, you could tell their easy-going relationship made the choreography between them flow that much more easily.
The rest of the day carried on, and before I knew it we were just about at show time. Lesandra and I headed out into the audience to watch the performance together. First up was A leash for two hounds. We decided to sit further back in the theatre than earlier in the day, and sitting in a different location changed some elements of the piece for me. I can’t put my finger on exactly what, but it’s interesting how the same audience can see a work differently depending on where they are sitting. Because of the wooden frame outlining to the stage, it almost looked like the dance was playing out on an old television set, and with the black costumes it felt like an old 1960s black and white version. After a very brief intermission (must have been just enough time for Susanne to get her costume changed), Canvas 5 x 5 began. Those initial notes in the first piece of music always twinge a bit of excitement in me; I think it brings me back to the short excerpt performance I did of the piece at the Creative NS Awards Gala in the fall. The dancers looked absolutely beautiful floating and gliding through the space, and the moments when the canvas would be thrown up into the air were magical in the big black space. The audience rose to their feet as the dancers stepped forward for their bow -- Miramichi’s first contemporary dance festival  was very well received.
The final adventure of the trip was the drive home. Everyone opted to leave right after the show in hopes of beating an incoming snow storm. We were on the road by 10:30pm and everyone got home safely -- into the wee hours of the morning, however. 

 Another session of my Fresh Tracks! learning is over, and I really had an amazing time traveling with the Company. The trip to Wolfville earlier in the year had only been for a day, so this opportunity to see how a company works and operates on a longer road trip was extremely interesting. I had a great time being in the space, stepping up on stage when those times came during tech rehearsals, and really felt as a part of the group. It’s been amazing to get to know these dancers better and watch their processes, both in the studio and on the stage -- what an amazing group of people to learn from.

-Kathleen Doherty