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

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Our lungs push - I am still here, we survive and thrive

When we created Sable Island, it was my first big foray back into the studio since having my son. It would be my first time working with both Mocean and Serge. I was nervous and excited all at once about putting myself back into such a physically demanding role.  As expected/hoped, the work was intensely physical, the creation process was inspiring, demanding and rewarding, the finished product was truly something to be proud of. 

Photo Credits - Michelle Doucette

I remember walking onto the stage on opening night, lining up alongside the other dancers and thinking "I am still here. I still get to do this." And in that way, I find Sable Island so beautifully relatable. In the same way those wild horses keep surviving and thriving, so does our dance community and its artists, and so do I, even within this new dynamic of dancer and mother combined.

I am enormously proud of this piece. We all are. There is no doubting the physical demand of Serge's work. Our lungs push hard and our bodies sweat. In the final image of the piece, in the moment before the lights fade to black, when I am standing alongside the other four dancers, there is always a sense of accomplishment and gratification. Our bodies can do this. We can push them this hard, ask this much of them, and they respond. We are so incredibly fortunate to be allowed to work in these dancing bodies. I am grateful for this work, with its complex imagery and its steady drive, and I could not be more excited to share Sable Island with our friends and colleagues from across Canada at CDF this year.
Photo Credits: Holly Crooks

Immersive and Demanding: where is my weight and the internal landscape of imagery

Returning to Sable Island this year to prepare for CDF I have been reminded over and over again how this is the hardest piece I have ever done. So physical, and always demanding more- more weight, more risk, more lunge, more cells involved in the action, more power, more sensitivity, more pushing, more letting go. You have to dig into it. Peel away the layers of yourself, and face it, as Serge says.  We have been rehearsing for about 3 hours a day, but it takes me another 7 to warm-up and cool down (a constant process), and I'm still sore everyday. The muscles are working,  pushing, digging. I am thankful for being involved in this piece that is so immersive and demanding of my every attention.

Photo Credits: Michelle Doucette
What a beautiful thing to be completely wrapped up in, together with an ensemble of wonderful, complex, dedicated dancers, and Serge. But it also frustrates me, because being in this piece is so demanding of me that I have little capability for attention to anything else while we are working on it.
Photo Credit: Michelle Doucette
My favourite part of dancing the piece is actually the internal landscape of imagery that gets created by doing it. I like when my body is dancing, and my mind, like a bird flying over a canyon, is free to see and feel around me. I love when the imagination of where I am, where we are, what elements are driving us, just appears through the words, sounds, movements of the piece. I have an elaborate and colourful inner narrative that is my own. But we're also a herd, a pack, an ensemble. Every flinch, shift, flicker felt by all. 

Photo Credit Holly Crooks
Right now it's the morning. I'm about to have a coffee and begin the warm-up process for today. I've already started filtering through- how are my shoulders, back, hips? Where is my weight today? How are the feet? the mind?  I will wake-up the core, attend to my neck, put on some rain gear and walk to the studio. Happy Monday.

Photo Credit Holly Crooks

Monday, 23 May 2016

To keep living, to keep pushing - to have courage

Before an event occurs, there is a unearthly quiet. A deep vibrational hum can be felt as forces press upon once seemingly unrelated elements; thrusting a new existence into the front of consciousness. Sable Island is a transcendence, a survival from one moment to the next. It is a place where the vast intensities that dwell inside of me can speak. 
Photo by Michelle Doucette, Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Mocean Dance

Sable Island lives in a mythical place and time. It is a harsh reality of elemental and undeniable forces, that reminds me of how our existing realities play upon and affect each other. That we can be hard or we can be kind, but eventually we all compile into something much larger than I can speak of. 

Photo by Michelle Doucette, Rhonda Baker in rehearsal with Mocean Dance
Sable Island gives me hope. To keep living, to keep pushing, to keep resisting, to concede, to continue breathing, to have courage. To erase myself, until nothing but the purest of form is left. It is continually humbling to have this body, this life, and this dance. 

~Rhonda Baker

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The time is here, being present where you are exactly needed

About 18 years ago I saw a piece of Serge Bennathan at Maison de la culture du Plateau Mont-Royal, and I wanted to do that work, the room was small but the dancer transcended the space.

Then time pass by, life got busy, and I did not pursue that idea.

Then about 5 years ago, Sheilagh Hunt brought Serge to Halifax to do a workshop with Kinetic Studio.  I enjoy to be in the studio with him, he gives 200% no concessions, he is very generous, his movement are full nervous system and elastic.

Then I was suppose to dance in a creation that Serge did a couple years later, I was very excited, finally!  But I got pregnant with Camille (4 now), then I was suppose to be part of the creation of Sable Island, but I had a schedule conflict with my work with Danièle Desnoyer... It is like if I was never going to collaborate with Serge.

But at last Oscar saved me, and I am replacing Susanne, because he wants her fully to himself.

So I am very looking forward to put all of those moves in my body, and mostly sharing the studio and work with Serge and (almost) all of my Haligonians friends. Also I do love the Canada Dance Festival and Ottawa, and we are going to rock the stage over there with a powerful work, danced by the cream of Halifax!

Elise and her Haligonian friends in the studio!

In studio prep before the arrival of Serge!

Little Oscar, Mocean Baby #12 taking Susanne aside for Elise to dance with Sable Island

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

waves beating my heart like a drum

Re-Visiting Sable Island:

a year later, aging cells that still hold together, tenacity persists, a deeper understanding.

I remember the poetry of images that floated through the studio, the rhythm of vocal love, the question of hanging on, and the feeling of being a part of something that is larger than me. These are gifts, and gifts that return to me.

The timing of working with Serge initially within my personal path was very transformative.

I had just returned home to Halifax after being away for two years doing my masters. In that time I had never challenged myself so much mentally, physically and creatively, but I was also always in my front brain, driving the search forward. Within Sable Island I had to transform myself into an energetic and spiritual vessel that was larger than myself. I was in my back brain, earth body, a place of deep visceral necessity and beauty. This is the magic of the piece and its gift for me as an artist.

What is the now? Well its still fresh and the door opening.

But I feel a sense of groupness that is one breathing lung versus five individual s.o.s signals occurring at the same time. This excites me, I want to feel more of this. Time and distance - yields wonders for perspective. 

Photo by Holly Crooks

Photo by Holly Crooks

~ Sara C.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

a little honesty

We made something bigger than the work.  It was about the about.  Thoughts and discussions.  One thread revealing a hundred new thoughts.  Placing the last puzzle piece only to realize the finished puzzle in its totality was but a piece in a much larger scrambled yet happy mess that may never be solved.  Different pieces/ideas when placed in tandem will certainly reveal something unique.  Endless possibilities and configurations.  Everything speaks more when placed somewhere new and with someone new. 

Photo: Rhonda Baker
“Phrases came, visions came.  Beautiful pictures, beautiful phrases.” 
– Virginia Woolf

It was a beautiful, shared experience.  Without divulging all, keeping part of our gem hidden, I will share my want/believe/wish/love statement from our final improvisation.  This week, this place, these people helped me find this truth so very clearly.

“I believe dance requires a generosity and an honesty.”

To you all, I am very grateful.
Photo: Rhonda Baker

Sunday, 15 May 2016

CLEaR Forum: Generative Dialogue Circle

How do you feel connected to your peers, greater community, Canadian dance ecology and the role of dance in general?

How do you make room for yourself in the community?

Who (or what) inspires you the most and why? When you enjoy dancing the most?

What makes a great dance?, What is Dance?

If you had the luxury of unlimited time what would you choose to cultivate in yourself or art practice?   (Blue sky thinking)

What are people’s desires in preserving or breaking formal theatre format?

Do you have image of place (theatre, site-specific, etc.) in mind before you go into creation or does it come after?

When does the role of audience become part of the work?

When/how do you consider the audience?

How do we allow work to be seen more when there are fewer presenting forums and smaller audiences?

What is, in your opinion, an old way of working or approaching dance that might need to evolve?

What is the role of tradition in contemporary dance? 

If you could design a training program, what would it be?

What influences does (specific) training have on a dancers ability to adapt to change?  Do you think the training model (in the professional realm) is lacking something? 

How do you start?

What is the value in the intellectualisation of the creative process?

How do you make structure and content align?

What is the main obstacle you face when creating?

What (if any) are your tools to overcome obstacles or what are such tools you admire in others that you can identify?

What structures/organization does dancers need to make their work or to be more efficient in making of dance?

How do you approach working collaboratively?

How much information of your creation you like to share with your collaborators, at what point, and why/why not?

How do you negotiate the truth in the room vs. original choreographic concepts?

How do you know or recognize ego influencing the work and how do you reflect and redirect this?

How do you dive deeply into a choreographer’s world and still keep elements of yourself?  / Should you?

What is the value of having a “movement signature” as a dancer and when does it hinder the process?

How do you feel in rubbing or uncomfortable situations? Stay or Go?

How do you take your place and leave room at the same time during a process?

How to remain autonomous?

How to not let the work you dance in and see subconsciously become your vocabulary? 

Thursday, 12 May 2016




Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Compositional Charades - our creative tool prefences

Clear Choices
Feeling / Emotion
Play with extreme specificity of body
Reveal something
Dynamic relationship awareness
Use of space
Raw Energy
Sense of rhythm or pace
Relationship Development
Space: use of space, craft of space
Humanness Realness

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

2016 CLEaR Forum Participants


Rhonda Liane Baker was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1983. She is an alumna of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and has worked on an independent basis, for a vast range of companies and artists in both Halifax and Toronto since her graduation in 2009. When she is not working with Mocean Dance, Rhonda dedicates her time to creating and teaching dance to youth in the city of Halifax, while also collaborating on dance projects with Christine Birch (Toronto), and Votive Dance (Halifax).

Marie-France graduated from the Montreal School of Contemporary Dance in 2012. As a dancer, she worked for maribé – sors de ce corps and Audrey Rochette. aSPIRE, her first solo piece, was presented at the Festival Vue sur la Relève in 2015 and was awarded the Coup de Pouce of the Studio 303. Marie-France’s main inspiration is the human reality and how we adapt physically and emotionally to our environment.


Emma Kerson hails from Halifax and is a Toronto-based independent dancer,
choreographer, teacher, and writer.  She formed Common People with Andrew Hartley in 2014.  Together they have commissioned duets by Simon Renaud and Tedd Robinson.

Georgia Skinner, originally from Halifax NS, danced with Coastal Dance until attending The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Upon graduation in 2014, she dances professionally with The Woods Hip Hop Company, Nostos Collectives, and as an independent artist in her home town.

Geneviève Boulet is a contemporary dance artist based in Montréal, QC. She received her training from L’École de Danse Contemporaine de Montréal and since finishing in 2006 has gone on to work professionally with choreographers Ismaël Mouraraki, Roger Sinha, Lina Cruz, and for the company O Vertigo. Recently, she collaborated with the Israeli choreographer Roy Assaf on the solo, A Girl.  She is also an emerging choreographer who created in collaboration with two other dancers the collective LA TRESSE. Their first work Beauté Brute will be presented at this years OFFTA festival.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Sahara Morimoto is an independent dance artist, based in Toronto. She has been dancer with Peggy Baker Dance Projects and was Artistic Associate of the company between 2008-2015.