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

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

tending to our roots and hitting the wall you built to hide behind

"we were tending to our own few acres
in a space where time was ageless
and never clearer when not distracted
by the distortion of mirrors, we were

uncovering small miracles
all wandering and then
I’m on an island, I said
limbs shooting out in all direction
along the lengths of loops and repetition
inhabiting spaces once clearly defined

mine, but this time crossing the line with
a diminished resistance, to one moment
stretched out as I stood, within myself

and there is something I meant to say
about this, but the words slipped on their way
to my lips, the letters wound around
in limitless combinations, to ride
the tide of an oceanless wave
pouring endlessly into the depths of
wet pages

for the human condition never so
evidenced as when in search
of a guide, to keep going, to step
forward and fall, spiralling
in and in and inward
hitting the wall you built to hide behind
from the compression of time and the pressure
of dwelling anywhere except on the
sidelines, when finally you realize
you’ve been redefined
by nine lives

growing up in the absence of existence
from the remains, one base
with encouragement from the wind
a duration held for deep listening
we were tending to our roots not searching
for an ending, but you can humour me
if you have no will to believe this
or adhere to my incoherent ramblings

i am a witness" 

by Rhonda Baker

Photos by Rhonda Baker

Cataloguing our research

Things we were discovering, trying, avoiding, and coming up against in the studio at CLEaR Forum June 2-6, 2014. Field Research Location: Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.

Accumulation              Sticking with
Directive                     Ambiguous
Chance                        Craft
Predictability              Surprise          
Control                        Openness
Texture                        Sameness
Landscape                   Structure        
Embed                         Separate
Sensorial                      Analytical
Seeing                          Hiding
Syntax                         Phrasing
Order                           Chaos                                                 
Change                        Monotonous
Perspectives                Assumptions
Toolbox                       Habits
Desire                          Demand          
Vulnerability               Comfort
Uncertainty                 Victory
Space                           Crowd
Observation                Introspection 
Listening                     Interpreting
Community                 Individual  


Contemplation, ACTIVATION, excavation, reflection, percolation, realization

We emerge from the work field and from the tall grass, complete with a few causalities from co-dwelling with nature. Simultaneously exhausted and rested, as a collective we are more awake to what is already there. Mocean’s 2nd annual CLEaR Forum: Choreographic Lab, Exploration and Research Program was held last week, June 1-6, at the picturesque Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS, and from the gathering, co-habiting, and questioning – I am proud to report that both as a collective and individually artistic widening took place. 

CLEaR Forum 2014- The team during the golden hour on the beach.

As a work-group and as a supportive peer network we lived embedded with each other; and more importantly embedded with each other’s questions and habits, therefore witnessing or conceivably activating a shimmering of new possibility from each participant.  

This year, the program boasted representation from the local and national dance community with dance artists from Halifax, Fredericton, Montreal, and Vancouver. The nine artists on-site included; Researching Choreographers Jacinte Armstrong (Halifax) and Emily Gualtieri (Montreal); Program Dancers: Rhonda Baker (Halifax/Toronto), Julia Carr (Vancouver), Artistic Director Susanne Chui (Halifax), Bridget Lappin (Halifax/London), and Lucy M. May (Fredericton native and Montreal-based dancer with Compagine Marie Chouinard); and Choreographic Mentors Lesandra Dodson (Fredericton) and myself, Artistic Associate and Program Director Sara Coffin.

The purpose of the CLEaR Forum program is to offer a forum for discussion and inquiry within the creative gesture, and to provide two emerging to mid-career choreographers with studio space, skilled-dancers, and in-studio provocation from a choreographic mentor team. 

Mentor Lesandra Dodson observes Jacinte Armstrong as she works with Lucy May and Bridget Lappin

In addition to this, the program offers morning research (in the form of open-ended propositions) to probe the creative gesture of all participating artists and to close the day's work – facilitated evening discussions are scheduled as a means to share resources and consider art making practices beyond the CLEaR Forum eco-system. 

I am thrilled Mocean Dance can offer this resource to our community as the program serves many purposes in which the breadth and depth of its offerings are difficult to articulate. In attempt to name a few and proclaim the use of service – CLEaR Forum serves as a platform for professional development, cross-pollination amongst dance making communities, for network and connection making, and serves as a focused retreat and repose for personal interrogation and creative development.

CLEaR Forum is my favourite auxiliary program that the company offers beyond our creation/production. I love the challenge of creating a precise focused container for research to take place within. And within this framework, it is also my job to allow the container to be responsive and flexible to the inherent eco-system created by the gestalt of the program participants. 

Dancer Lucy M. May, working with Jacinte Armstrong

In a program designed to support and stir those involved, I love facilitating and observing the concord and the rub of being vulnerable, accountable, open, spontaneous, and calculated in one intense format. By setting up such continuums, it is the space between each of these (personal and creative) acts that the magic and resultant transformations can take place. Without the gift of time and such a plausible forum, such introspection is unattainable if working isolated in one’s own thoughts.  This is the purpose of CLEaR Forum.

In addition to creating the program structure, I also serve as a choreographic mentor on the two-person mentorship team. This year I was joined by Fredericton-based Choreographer Lesandra Dodson. 

Perhaps this is a slightly formal title in the context of my discussion tactics and informal self. Nonetheless, it is a useful title to delineate the roles within the program. In retrospect, I think I would much prefer the title sounding board or peer adviser, as it is important to me to continue to orientate the program towards peer learning and using the resources that we already have. Regardless, I firmly believe that discourse and a fresh perspective offered by an outside eye can serve to redirect or unblock one from their own habits’… whether the peer reflection seems useful in the moment of the offering or not. CLEaR Forum is the exact 'no stakes'  and 'unattached' time and space to get overloaded, to re-consider, to be agitated – so one can remould themselves more articulate and defined or be opened to new window of possibility to further explore post program. 

Dancers: Julia Carr, Susanne Chui and Rhonda Baker, working with Emily Gualtieri

As American composer Morton Feldman suggests, CLEaR Forum is in place so that we can “concentrate on not making the lazy move.

The forum is the activation…. and the aftermath of such activation is in itself a beautiful dance that occurs in the striate of the immediate, near, and distant future. 

It was a beautiful week of rigorous inquiry and I am proud to be in the presence of such good company and such stimulating artists.