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

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Hello From Alderney Landing

Hello from Alderney Landing! 

It seems incredibly appropriate that today is International Dance Day, as I spend my day in a dark theatre, making diagrams about blocking, listening to notes for the dancers, and imagining myself in the space. As I write this post, the dancers are literally running in circles around the stage, getting a feel for the space, the costumes, and testing their chosen hair styles. I thought I might just keep adding in quotes and activities that are happening around me, to give you a little inside scoop of our big tech day. 

“Conserve your energy, it’s a long day.”
A thoughtful line that just came from Mocean’s star stage manager, Marcel. 

It’s all becoming real, with opening night only one day away. As I watch and look forward to the next few days, I can’t help but already be sad about not heading to the studio everyday next week. For the past 5 weeks we have been in the studio everyday, and all too soon it will be over. Post show blues are a thing, even for the understudy as it turns out. 

5 hungry dancers flocked to my side to grab a quick bite of some delicious croissants, generously supplied by Serge. 

“Ladies come back to where you first start crazy hands, please”- Marcel

Tech day is always one of my favourites. It feels good to settle into the theatre, find your mirror backstage in the dressing rooms, get your station set up, hang up your costume, and nice outfit for the opening night reception, and settle in for the next few days. 

Shadows begin to take over the sides of the stage, varying in size as the dancers move through the choreography. 

Murmured conservations can be heard throughout the room: on stage between the dancers, from the back of the theatre as Serge & Stephane discuss lighting, Marcel on the headset, and rehearsal director Sara Harrigan speaking with myself and the dancers on stage. It’s an interesting soundscape, as I catch bits and pieces of each of these murmurs. 

“Are you watching her, or is she watching you?”- Gillian

As I’ve said in my past couple of posts, be sure to come out and see this show. Witness the inspiring work of Mocean Dance to bring you two brilliantly exciting pieces, “Live From The Flash Pan” by Cory Bowles, and “Sable Island”  by Serge Bennathan. 

“There’s the dinosaur.”- Jacinte 

It’s been a pleasure sharing my thoughts with you, until next time. 

xx Kathleen 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

At A Moment's Notice

Hello again, 

It’s your trusty understudy here. If you read my blog post from last week, you may remember me talking about being ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. Well, that situation happened big time just a few days ago. 

It was Thursday, and the big run of the piece for the day was just barely underway when I heard Serge yell my name. I was preoccupied with my dancing, so I didn’t immediately notice when one of the dancers had to suddenly step out because of an injury. I ran from my back corner to take her place within the group, and settled in for the next 35-40 minutes. 

Thoughts going through my head included but are not limited to: 
-Is this where I am supposed to be? Where should I stand? And other such thoughts related to blocking. 
-You know the choreography, trust
-Ahh crap, I never had a chance to practice (insert part here) with the group. Here goes nothing…

As I was in the piece I just kept telling myself to give it everything I had, this was my opportunity, my performance, even if was only in the studio with a couple of people watching, this was it. 40 minutes later we arrived at the end of the piece, and I was overwhelmed with the support and love from my dance partners. The whole room applauded, with hugs from my fellow dancers, and even a thumbs up from Serge. Everyone was quite impressed with how well I knew the material, and one of the dancers commented that she didn’t even notice a difference with me in the mix instead of the regular casting (pretty stellar compliment if I do say so myself!). All of my work for the past number of weeks, dancing in the crammed corners and with the ballet barres had paid off. 

The next day I was on video duty for the run, with all of the dancers happy and healthy. It’s quite a flip to go from jumping into the piece one day, to watching and being in charge of the video camera the next. Such is the life of an understudy, never glamorous, and always changing. 

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to get thrown into the piece, and watching the next day gave me a feeling of pride and excitement. As I watched my colleagues dance I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, to know the amount of work they have put into this work, and the strength they give to the community. Rhonda, Jacinte, Susanne, Sara & Gillian, I am proud to call these 5 women my co-workers, mentors, and friends. Nova Scotia, you will be sorry to miss this show. Do yourself a favour and get your tickets right now, so that you can witness the talent of these women that I get to share in every day. 

xx Kathleen 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Notes from the sable studio by Kathleen Doherty

Hello blog world, 

I am the understudy for Serge Bennathan’s new work, “Sable Island”, and I’m writing to share a little bit about my experience so far. Understudying is a bit of an odd job, you are trying to learn everyone’s role in the very back corner of the studio. Then at a moment’s notice you can be thrown into the piece. Suddenly I find myself surrounded by people, instead of a ballet barre and yellow coloured walls. After weeks of dancing alone in the back, it’s quite a change to your senses (and adrenaline!) to be in the middle of it all. I can sense the rush and excitement when I observe the dancers in rehearsal, but being right in the middle of it is a completely different experience. It’s a satisfying experience, mixed with some stress. As I’m in the middle of the work, I’m suddenly realizing I don’t exactly know the blocking of this dancer, or the traveling pattern of another. Luckily, dancer instincts take over and the ability to sense the space and energy is a big tool I am able to use. I haven’t caused any traffic jams or crashes to this point, I’m working to keep that record nice and clean! 

I have been learning so much watching the 5 dancers of Sable Island work with Serge. Watching these skilled dancers everyday, and having the ability to learn from them and speak with them about the work is such a fantastic experience. Watching Serge work and create is another unforgettable experience, and I will always be grateful for these weeks in the studio with so many talented, driven, and passionate artists. 

A little list of my duties as the apprentice:
-Learn the piece (all 5 dancer’s spacing and solo moments, of course!)
-Stay out of the way…but be ready to jump in at a moment’s notice
-Get some rehearsal photos
-Post those photos 
-Video runs of the piece
-Reorganize the space (move CD player, speakers, flats, etc)
-Write blog posts
-Be present and engaged each day 

No one has instructed me to carry out that last one, but it seems like the best way to approach each day. I am learning so much, and am so thankful for this experience with Mocean Dance. I will continue to update you on my experiences in the coming weeks as we prepare for Close Reach, which is only 2 short weeks away!   

Love & gratitude,


Friday, 17 April 2015



Choreographer Cory Bowles is back in Halifax, working with Mocean Dance on the remount of his critically praised Live from the Flash Pan, which had its world premiere in 2010.  Recently he stepped away from the studio to answer a few questions about the production and how he builds a dance work.

“Live from the Flash Pan is a bit of a satire on dance in pop culture. The pace of pop culture has sped up and there is a barrage of new influences,” Cory explains. “In this work we are exploring how that culture constantly changes and relentlessly forces the same for artists. There is a huge exodus with the shifts, but there's always a pocket of artists who just don’t, can't or just won't fit. They're a ‘flash in the pan’ because they are hot, but not mutating.  They are forced out.

Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Cory Bowles and Mocean Dance

1 - Your career in the performing arts spans multiple creative roles in multiple genres – film, music, theatre, dance.  As a choreographer how does this background and experience influence your creative process as you build a dance piece?

I don’t have one set way of working, it always adapts and changes. Elements of one discipline creep into the other disciplines at different times; different elements for different moments. I'm fortunate to have a pretty big toolbox. It’s a constant tinkering and exploration, and of course a lot of trial and error.  At the end of the day we just try to tell a concise and interesting story. 

Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Cory Bowles and Mocean Dance

2 - Live from the Flash Pan was originally set on Carolle Crooks in 2010 and will be performed in 2015 by Rhonda Baker for the Close Reach program. When you create a new piece or remount a dance work, how much are you influenced by the dancer/dancers with whom you work?  Are you influenced by personality? Technique? Physical type?

I’m influenced by the fact that we build a piece together.  For Flash Pan we created the character and story. We're influenced by a general idea or general themes, but it's a jump off point.  No two people are the same, and they don't or shouldn't interpret the same. When I work with someone new I should hope to get them to own it the role as soon as possible. It becomes something of a new piece, from a new perspective. There's definitely influence at the beginning from the original casting, but it's more like having an unseen partner in the beginning stages and then the piece eventually becomes someone else's story to tell.

Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Cory Bowles and Mocean Dance

3 - Do you have a fixed choreographic process? Do you start with a theme?  An image? A movement? The music?

Again, always different. Most of the time it starts with an idea. Sometimes specific from start to finish, other times something smaller –like a quotation or an incident. Then go with the instinct as much as possible.  I ask myself “What am I trying to say and is it worth saying?” “What are the necessary steps?”  then I try my best to trust that instinct. If i can't...well..

4 - How do you get to the life of the work?

I don’t believe that you can force a theme, even if you think you know the theme, a new one will arise. I try to get to the life of something by nurturing it. Something doesn't flower unless it gets water, sunlight, nutrients, etc. If work is fed, it something fresh emerges.  You can analyze what it is and what it wants to say.

A lot of times the work will steer me in a new direction. Or a person’s interpretation of the work will steer me in a new direction. Sometimes the essence in someone’s movement will prompt me to change direction. I follow it so that the artist can approach the movement from their most honest perspective. I'm there to help the approach with an honest conviction. They need to understand the work more than me. Eventually I just provide an outside perspective.

Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Cory Bowles and Mocean Dance

5 - How much do you engage the dancers in your creative process as you build the piece?

Collaboration, artistry, ability, safety and trust.  There are times when I'm really specific in what I want the artists or artists to do --  other times when we are completely collaborative. I try to never leave an artist abandoned. Time to themselves, sure. But never alone.

For the collaborative, I engage in a joint exploration. I don't believe in the choreographer, or the dancer having one set way of working. It is a constant dialogue all the way through, even when I know exactly what I want. We have to inspire each other and inspire the room. I have to be driven to not only make them look good, but eventually, as a choreographer, I aim to be invisible. I want to empower the people I am working with and give them the framework to deliver that empowerment. I am there to always work for the dancer who is working in the piece, for the piece, and in turn for the initial idea and my direction.

Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Cory Bowles and Mocean Dance

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

I am.

Mocean Dance is back in the studio with Serge Bennathan, getting ready for our spring home season production of CLOSE REACH and the world premiere of Sable Island.

We push through the day and break down the walls of our preconceived pictures. Our stamina increases. The deeper we fall, the stronger we become.

(a collection of insightful words of wisdom gathered from the studi0)

Winter Words
A constant reaction to a situation. Where am I…
Keep the truth of how you move but take out the dancer self.

Finish each accident/event, find the fullness and not just forcefulness.
Follow the sensation.

How can you linger in each moment and arrive in the consequence of each accident?

What ghosts surround you?

A Spring Thaw
Letting go of what you thought it was to allow something else to open up.

The difference between tension and power.

Can you feel the group? Turning problems into an investigation or a question to follow. 

Open your windows and allow the light in.

Grounding in the legs - released to the earth and the upper body flies, available for full openness. This is the tension; the contrast of the two is the beauty within the conflict.

I am here, the artifacts beneath me; the whispers of past cries are carried through the wind.

Do not move through space, the space moves through you. 

Wolverine to Spring Warriors.

Photos by Michelle Doucette