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

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Reflecting on Canvas 5 x 5

Canvas 5x5 is one of Mocean’s most beloved pieces and, among many other feelings, our hearts are warmed immensely to have this piece be shortlisted for the Masterworks Prize. This is only the second time that dance has been on the shortlist, and we are so glad to see that such multidisciplinary juries and the greater public embraces the magic of dance, and it’s power to move the audience with works that are technically rich, emotionally charged and on the avant garde of exploring the mysteries of human potential, ephemeral beauty, and community.

The artists at Mocean have taken time to reflect on the honour of having been shortlisted for this illustrious award and on the process of creating Canvas 5 x 5 all those years ago. Being nominated for something like the Masterworks award gives the opportunity to think about what the piece means and how the process of creating it affected the artists, much more than a remount would inspire. It’s easy, in day to day life, to forget how important it is to take a step back and look at the community that artwork creates, the sense of being and belonging. 

“This is fantastic that Canvas 5 x 5 is shortlisted. The work that we did and the fact that so many have seen it, particularly in the Maritimes is already enough tribute. So to be shortlisted for this fantastic award is truly a gift. It is not often in a contemporary choreographer's career that one's work is recognized to such an extent. It was such a pleasure to make for Mocean Dance and without everyone's collaboration it would not be the work it is.”

-Tedd Robinson, Choreographer

Tedd Robinson, during the creation of Canvas 5 x 5 in 2012.

“As a dancer in Canvas 5 x 5 I am honored to be a finalist for the Masterworks Award.  Canvas 5 x 5 is a very special piece to dance and to witness.  Through performing it I feel a deep connection to my Maritime roots -- It has an extraordinary ability to evoke images, stir feelings, and rouse memories for me as a performer and for many who witness it, like a ‘canvas’ onto which we experience our shared humanity. From performing it in many places it is clear that Canvas 5 x 5 is a work that is deeply moving and inspiring to audiences, so I’m pleased that it is being celebrated through this nomination. I am also very proud that Mocean Dance and its artists and collaborators are being recognized for our artistic work and contribution to professional dance in Nova Scotia.”

- Susanne Chui, Dancer and Co-Artistic Director

“Being a finalist for the Masterworks award is a great honour. I am very proud, not only for my individual role in the piece, but for recognition of the collective achievement of the performers, the choreographer, and the company.

I love the joys and challenges of this particular piece, and I love being a part of Tedd Robinson's body of work. Through this dance, I feel connected to other dances and other dancers across the country and across time.  One of the most rewarding aspects of dancing in Canvas 5x5 is the feeling of truly being part of an ensemble. Without each of us- individually and together- the piece could not exist as it is. For me, this is a particularly meaningful metaphor for our local dance community, where each person's contribution is a vital part of the whole.”

- Jacinte Armstrong, Dancer

“Dance is an artistic collaboration between the choreographer and the dancer. It is the dancers job to embody the choreographer’s vision and artistic pursuit. The dancer then uses their skill, talent, and artistry to interpret that vision into performance. To be recognized as a masterwork in performance is one of the highest honors. The title comes with mastering the artistry and subtle nuance of the choreography. Recognition of this sort is truly an artists/dancer/performers career highlight.”

- Ruth-Ellen Kroll Jackson, Dancer

“Canvas 5 x 5 was my first contract with Mocean Dance. I am almost without words left to harvest from that time, that might allude to how being recognized as a performer in a masterwork makes me feel. Although I am much further from the realities that gave event to what is called Canvas 5 x 5, I am left with a reminder of beginnings and homecomings.

I encountered Tedd Robinson’s work (and the man himself), albeit briefly, while in Nova Scotia just before departing for my professional dance training. While at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre I watched my peers dance his work, and subsequently, travel to Ottawa for the Canada Dance Festival to perform in tandem with schools from around the country. I witnessed him perform his own work onstage in Toronto, and finally in 2012, through happenstance, I was offered a contract from Mocean Dance to work with Tedd Robinson, a Canadian dance icon. “A master, teaches essence” …when this essence is perceived, the master then teaches what is necessary to expand perception. 

Tedd Robinson is a master of his work, and of communicating the essence of that work to collaborating artists. Through a rigorous process at L.A B.A.R.N, Tedd developed this work not only through form, but through laughter, and through acknowledgement and respect of the resonating dissonance between each of us. He imparted a knowledge of form that I could then use to employ my body to speak; how to fold and toss the cloth, how to glide behind a veil of serenity, how to build and burden, and begin again. With each beginning we are ourselves, calling to something else. Held to each other by tradition, held to ourselves by counterpoint. Contained by what we are through form, drawn back to who we are by rhythm. Drawn back to each other, through a calling.”

- Rhonda Baker, Dancer

From L.A. B.A.R.N. creative process in 2012

During the creation of Canvas 5 x 5 I was interim Artistic Director for the company, a creative consultant to Tedd Robinson in the studio, and I have also been the main rehearsal director for the piece since the premiere in 2012. It was an honour to work with Tedd and to support the Mocean dance artists and the creative team in bringing Canvas 5 x 5 to fruition.

It is an honour to be a finalist for the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award, both for the company and for the recognition of the individual Mocean dance artists who have contributed to the creation and performance of Canvas 5 x 5 over the years. All of these creators contribute to the continued vitality living within the piece. It is particularly fitting that a nomination celebrating Mocean’s artistic work comes this season, as the company celebrates its 15th Anniversary in 2016-2017. 

Mocean has work tirelessly, fueled by our passion for performance and the potential of the creative gesture to spark the imagination, to craft and hone our skills as dance artists, and to become a sustainable anchor organization for the region for dance. Most importantly, we strive to bring contemporary dance, the power and delights of embodiment and imagination, to many Atlantic Canadian communities. Canvas 5 x 5, with all of its delightful and moving images, has been a key vehicle for this exchange, and we are pleased to honour the strength of this work and the company. 

- Sara Coffin, Rehearsal Director for Canvas 5 x 5 and Co-Artistic Director

Photos by Holly Crooks