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

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Reclaiming Self

By: Vivika Ballard

            In the February Kinetic Open Studio Series Lydia Zimmer, Michele Slattery and I performed What We Want, a new ‘work in progress’ by Kathleen Doherty (Votive Dance) and mentored by Sara Coffin. The process was facilitated by the Mocean Dance Emerge Project 2016. It was a great networking opportunity and a creatively nurturing experience. I felt both artistically respected and challenged and was perhaps surprised a bit by my discoveries in performance. You make a lot of your own opportunities as an independent dancer here in Halifax and Emerge was a welcome platform for growth.

            Having moved away from home to study dance at age twelve, I went through a period recently when, looking back, dance was no longer worth the sacrifices I had made. I needed time to simply live and become someone outside of the studio. Dance took a backseat. This was poor timing in my career but asserted the importance of my integrity as an artist and what I needed to do to reclaim that. It was an uncomfortable transition and a turn inward and away from my heavy history with dance. Almost like the place you go when you’re performing. The place where you suspend yourself, you suspend time, and anything outside the theatre is really irrelevant for a period. I felt rootless and afraid like the meek sense of vulnerability you feel when you step on stage. While you’ve been there a thousand times before this time is new yet again. Everything is focused. Who knows what’s to happen? And there’s a gentle fear in this.

Photo by Rhonda Baker

         But there is integrity and courage to be claimed in the focused space that is performance. I realized that going on stage requires these qualities. If you’re lost and afraid you will have to find strength to tap into that living space and it’s not tangible. It requires the heart. It’s a sensation of being alive. I had lost that in dance for a time and I felt this opportunity helped my rediscovery of that.

            The process was gentle yet rich in exploration and allowed us much artistic license. A lot of the work was drawn from our improvisation and our personalities. We played around with story telling and speaking written text to express different versions of ourselves. We reflected on how we do and do not see ourselves which felt appropriate for me at this point in my life.

            One of the unique parts about this project was the fact that that exploration continued onto the stage and into performance. I felt awakened by the possibilities on stage more as opposed to feeling afraid, tired or ashamed. Performance has a great healing effect because it opens an emotional or spiritual channel that draws on courage and allows movement and expression. I often feel a great sense of humanity. 

Photo by Rhonda Baker

            Also because the piece was in a trial state of construction it all felt open and with a sense of play. I enjoyed this as it highlights the natural state of creation, of life; always uncertain but with an unquestionable drive. The reminder that none of us really know why we’re here and the only way is forward. So why don’t we experiment with that sense of aliveness in our bodies. Let it help us move through roadblocks or transformations and let us share it in performance. I remembered that for myself about dance. That what I found on stage performing What We Want with Michele and Lydia is precious and unique and of course a work in progress; alive. I’m grateful for this reminder and the cultivating process that was the 2016 Mocean Dance Emerge Project.

See the final version of What We Want April 28-30 at the Sonic Temple remounted for Votive Dance.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A look Inside the Book

From early on in the process - character discovery.

"I am not..."

"I want to be..."

Lydia Zimmer

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Inspiration

From the archives:

February 16, 2016

"Shrinking + expanding scale"


1 Super Hero
2 Distraction
3 Constant clock tick
4 Cutting up film
5 A real hair style
6 Giant banana leaf covering you in the rain
7 Be more concrete
8 No boxes
9 Creeping through the forest in large/small scale
10 Time to see my partner

... and from these blossomed our shared phrases.

cut, copy + paste 


Lydia Zimmer

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Getting Down to the Why

The Crossover Between Art and Life 

The studio is my home. It holds a lot of weight. Every time I enter a dance studio or any art or music studio I feel its holiness. Like a temple, the space demands your full spiritual and creative presence. The only place more sacred is the stage where anything superfluous could be considered blasphemy. Or in Shakespeare's words, "All the world's a stage," and our lives are the holy creative scenes and every action deliberate and unafraid.

I strive to achieve this authenticity and have been reminded these past couple of weeks of how the creative process truly brings you to the core of it. Jacinte Armstrong, a Halifax dance scene veteran, recently mentioned this quote:

"A stage space has two rules: Anything can happen and something must happen." -Peter Brook


What a simple metaphor for life especially these days; being braced between a multitude of options and making decisions within that evermore overwhelming structure. Both dealing within the realities of our sometimes sterile modern lives and asking ourselves the questions, What does authenticity mean to me? How can I balance living creatively and feeding myself? What is my art worth to me? To others? How great a risk am I willing to take? As artists we are forced to make statements and answer these questions and the best art is always subjective or even shocking.

In the 2016 Emerge program led by Kathleen Doherty and Sara Coffin I have been confronted with myself and these questions. The simple task of entering the studio daily and making creative decisions can start to feel less simple as you delve in. But that's the challenge; to both create and amalgamate; to make a mess and arrange it; to be an empty conduit and a tasteful, assertive choice maker.

Sometimes Kathleen (the choreographer) offers up some movement or direction and follows with the phrase, "kind of sort of?" implying that we somewhat got what she was demonstrating. I like the sense of openness that insinuates. It's as though she is already prepared to take our interpretation of things. It feels that in this process Kathleen comes across vigorously available which is a great quality in any collaborator. Kathleen leaves us (the dancers) space to offer ourselves individually by bringing some of our personal stories into the piece directly whether through text, emotional or character driven movement, or improv. I feel us dancers have shaped the piece a lot because of this. It is both challenging and liberating and overall, more effective in carrying across a sense of genuineness to an audience.

I've found myself asking why more often which is a good thing, a sacred thing, that should happen both inside and out of the studio; on and off the stage. Even if the answer is, 'because I must,' or, 'because I feel compelled to,' asking why is a powerful question in shaping ourselves as artists and humans.

"Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well" -Bob Dylan

If the whole world was a stage how would you play out your life and why?

Vivika Ballard


Friday, 19 February 2016

Pages From a Process

Words from a page ( a creative process with Kathleen Doherty)


- I Guess that makes it a desire (back towards the same direction)
-Jumping street cracks (Jump up)
-Having the knowledge to understand my existence (arm swings to grab knowledge)
- GREEN x2 (sweep from ground)
- Cats ( sharp arm sweeps into tail)
- Small Dance (tail gets smaller)
- Hour (little steps turn into walk)
- Banging on a kit (At the end of min hand go straight into First hit)
-Individual (From ground to standing)

Michele Slattery