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

Monday, 14 December 2015

Winning over the tough crowd

I invited a tough crowd into the studio today to witness the creative process of making a dance piece. 

Students from Dartmouth High School's (DHS) Dance 11 program got to take a field trip across the bridge and join Gillan, Brian and I in the studio today to witness us work and watch a run of the piece.

Throughout this fall, I have been working with the DHS Dance 11 students teaching movement and composition classes at their school, and I also had the pleasure of sharing some partnering skills to the school's improv team. Getting to know the group over time has been rewarding and it has been lovely to witness the group try new things and begin to believe in their creative potential.

Today the tables turned, and I put myself (and my collaborator Gillian Seaward-Boone) to the test by trying a completely new section, "testing the waters so to speak" in front of a room full of (sometimes unenthusiastic) viewing eyes. Gillian and I had the job of remaining present to the work and trying completely new things, while trying not to get distracted by the set of twenty eyes on us. We juggled the  job of remaining welcoming so that we could share our strange and wonderful world called "the unknowns in creative process" yet remain efficient and plough through our day's to do list despite the full house. 

After witnessing us work for an hour, we did a run of the piece for the students. Although there are still a lot of gaps in the work and many details to work out, the skeleton of the piece is getting stronger with each run. 

Below is the commentary and thoughts from my toughest critics yet:
Dartmouth High  Studio Visit Day with Mocean Dance

What skill sets / personality qualities, and communication tools do you see at work in the studio?
  • Lots of enthusiasm, you could tell the dancers love what they do.
  • It wasn’t as serious as I thought it would be, but more fun and energetic. They laughed but were very professional.
  • A lot of communication and they are very creative.
  • They worked together as a team and while they were brainstorming one is listening to someone who’s talking. Each gave their ideas and did their part.
  • A lot of effort.
  • Agreeing upon things. Open to new things, learn to do things you don’t like a whole lot.
  • You guys like figuring things out together, instead of one person figuring it out and teaching the other person.
  • Laptops, mirrors, microphones and a lot of physics.
  • The fact that they are positive and straightforward to the point and they’re very focused.

What images, themes, and associations do you see in the piece or does it remind you of?
  • Makes me think of  a battle within their own head that is being played out so that an audience can see what one deals with in their minds. Trying to trust one another.
  • I see someone wanting to love someone but the other person does not want to love them.
  • I see a lot of mirror and push.
  • Helping someone when they need it.
  • People telling you what to do and it getting stuck in your head.
  • Human growth, inner voice, survival, growing up, circle of life, sadness, inner demons, restarting.
  • It reminds me of sadness, nature, your inner self.
  • This piece reminds me of the struggles in life with all the people in the world that try to bring you down.

What section is the most interesting to you and why?
  • While one was talking and the other was continually doing the routine.
  • The whole thing is very interesting.
  • The final part was very intense.
  • When you guys said “this section is going to hurt.”
  • All of it.
  • When the girl was climbing on the other person’s back, cause it was not normal but interesting. 

This education mentorship partnership with Dartmouth High is supported by the generous funding received from:

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Cultivating Compassion and Community at the Library

Mocean Dance has recently initiated a partnership with the Halifax Central Library to offer free movement classes for adults in the Paul O’Regan Performance Hall.

Click to see large photo
Moving with Mocean is an open inclusive class designed to support all levels of movement comfort and ability. The class offers the chance for adults to engage creatively and actively in the beautiful setting of our new library; a space where the light cascading through the large windows will lift your spirits and the open skeleton of the room encourages deeper breathing. So far, we have offered the class three times this season, September 25, November 25 and December 2, and we are thrilled to see the benefits of supporting such an opportunity for mindful community connections, while engaging in an active and creative form that is both safe and extremely playful.

When teaching the class the feedback of smiles that I receive is infectious and I can’t help but smile back and send my heart-centre to the whole room. I know that such an act is my job as the facilitator for this class, but the interweaving of our group energy supported by the live music provided by local musician Andrew Dahms certainly makes it easy for me. I can’t tell who enjoys the class more the participants or me!

Reflecting on what is happening at a deeper and physiological level and why such exchange of energy through movement as a community is so important I share my layman’s version of the Polyvagal theory.

In moving, breath can access and regulate the vagus nerve, a nerve that runs along the face-heart connection on the side of the neck. This is why in so many mindful practices slow deep breathing is encouraged; as naturally we calm down and our stress reflexes begin to turn off. Through breath and the mirror neurons of sharing an energetic (and playful) experience together will activate the vagas nerve in such a way that helps us respond to other people with empathetic compassion and impacts our viscera at the neuroceptive level. Creating a supportive viscera homeostasis essentially means we are using a physiological (physical) state in which we can use another person in a dyadic interactive situation to help regulate your emotional state.

By down regulating the nervous system, or calming the nervous system in a pleasing physiological method our body can find a safe state of being that leads to more empathetic socially engaging responses, creativity, and the desire for developing bold and new ideas…. Like acknowledging skipping in public as an adult leads to at the very least positivity but potentially can later shape bold new ideas post public skipping!

The science in the simplistic act of breath, creativity, community, and physical interaction is profound and very rewarding beyond the few calories that we also burn!

Keep an eye out for more classes to come so you can share in the science of compassion and reap the benefits as well. Class info is posted on our face book page and on our website.