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

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Productive Instability: the art of fragmentation, coordination and creativity

In rehearsal with Sara Coffin and Mocean Dancers: J. Armstrong, R. Baker, S.Rozee

I am in the last leg of rehearsals with Mocean Dance as we prepare for the USA premiere/MFA Thesis Concert presentation of my new work entitled Body Abandoned at Smith College in Northampton, MA. The new trio will premiere on the Theatre 14 stage February 6-8, 2014 at the college. Then ten weeks later we will grace the Halifax stage April 24-26 at the Dunn Theatre with Live Art Dance’s closing show for the 2013-14 season.


Two-weeks after that the whole project will come to close/full fruition for me, when I defend the written portion of my thesis and I will be able to walk away with the letters M. F. A. following my trail!

…..I need to lay down …just by catching you the reader up on the logistical flow of the piece makes my head spin….. and I haven’t even got to sharing the content or the process yet.

Dancers Jacinte Armstrong and Rhonda Baker

But the fruits of this work is a real marker for all involved, this project encompasses a lot for both the company and for me personally. I am grateful for the commitment and the support that the new work and I have received from both sides of the border during its creation.

The content of the work is inspired by what I have been coining as my “blue period” – Picasso stuck with his monochrome tones, me, I am sticking with VGA cables and projectors! However, I think I have finally gotten to the essence of my ideological question, one that focus on our existence and the posthuman-machine connection. I may have come to my end point in the interrogation of the body’s relationship to technology, but I am happy, really happy with the product of my research.


The dancers: Jacinte Armstrong, Rhonda Baker and Mocean-founder Sarah Rozee have been real star troopers during the creation. I feel so blessed for the depth of research, commitment and literally the distance they have traveled with me during my inquiry.

Dancer Sarah Rozee

Wearing the two hats of graduate student and commissioned choreographer has been an interesting challenge in this beast of a production. However, I feel that a part of my MFA research and study have filtered through the process in an osmosis fashion and a bit of my experience has definitely been shared by all.

In our first working period, Mocean Dance was fortunate enough to host Smith Faculty members Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser for four days in June. During this time they offered master classes and workshops for the community while mentoring me in the studio.

Swell Contact Improvisation Intensive and Eco-Poetic Approach to Performance workshop participants.

June 2013
with Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser
MFA Advisor Chris Aiken in session "working the work"
During the second phase of creation Mocean Dance joined me in Northampton and we worked in an empty theatre all to ourselves for a week! Meanwhile my American cohorts were off relaxing on the American Thanksgiving break.

In this phase of creation multimedia collaborator Andrew Hawryshkewich and I worked remotely, sharing files back and forth, and I stayed up late for technical coaching on skype from the west coast.

The dancers were able to test drive the performance space and the sense of the bigger picture or the 'ness' of the piece started to sink in for both me and the dancers. Like the regular star troopers that J, R and S are, the dancers patiently waited and diligently kept working as I tracked the five components: the action/movement, the mediated image, the space, the music and the gestalt of it all.  


Now - here in the third leg of creation, back in Halifax, all the hard work is really resonating and vibrating in the studio. We ran part of the piece on Friday and I was in awe and touched by the how far the dancers continue to stretch themselves.

In preparation for the Smith MFA Thesis concert my fellow grads and I have selected a quote from the book: A Choreographic Mind by SusanRehorst, one that really highlights our state of research:

“One has to know and not know, prefer and not prefer, empty oneself and acknowledge one’s fullness, be passive and charged.  It has to happen to you and from you.  It has to be too fast for you to take in, and done in baby steps, one leaking into the other.”

In the process of this work, I have interrogated my tendencies, embraced my strengths, questioned my doubts, sought new perspectives, and now my skin is raw but my heart is strong. Within the disorientation and bewilderment of my growing pains a new clarity has surfaced*, one that I can feel resonating straight from the core of my bones.

*Note: This line is inspired by and drawn from our Choreographers' Notes crafted for the 
Smith MFA Thesis Dance Concert Program written by Shaina Cantino.
Theatre 14 Technical Residency at Smith College

In the last 100 meter dash before the curtain rises and the dancers take the stage I am filled with much anticipation and a giant check list.

I coordinate stop watches and emails as I finish the final music and multimedia adjustments (via online communication and file sharing) with my remote collaborators; Phil Thomson and Andrew Hawryshkewich respectively.

I keep an watchful eye on the post, as the costumes are arriving by mail from Smith College... and I am watching the snow report praying for clear driving days.

1 comment:

  1. Omy. My head is spinning just reading this! I look forward to ,hopefully, seeing some video of your project. Of course, I'm also looking forward to your future tour to the West coast of Canada…which I just created for you in my mind:)
    It looks like you've really found the crux of the themes that you were working with before you started grad school. I'm going to go drink some tea now and send you some relaxing thoughts while you are in the centre of the storm!