Last night’s performance of Ordinary Rebels by Mocean Dance was a true example of the often under celebrated talent and heart felt programming of the Nova Scotia Dance Scene. Halifax has been the home to Mocean Dance since it’s creation in 2001 and has since become the pinnacle of dance in the city as well, a central support for burgeoning dance artists.
Featuring a choreography created by Sara Coffin, co-artistic director alongside new mom Susanne Chui, the evening was made of very personal, honest and sincere repertory.
Visitors from Montreal, Emily Gaultieri and David Albert-Toth of PARTS+LABOUR_DANSE co-choreographed “La chute”. The piece introduces you to a man clearly troubled by the delusions he he engages with in his mind. The audience becomes fictional characters as part of his imaginings, witnessing the vulnerability of a man on a search for his identity.
The physicality displayed by Albert-Toth is, personally, a true inspiration considering his stature. Ignoring the cliche that most dancers fit into, small compact and agile, David has carved his own identity using his best attributes by paying close attention to specific details from hand gestures to slight and almost imperceptible movements, alongside larger than life dynamic surprises; travelling across the floor in one sweeping motion. His ability to take up the majority of a stage in one moment with a commanding presence and curl into a tiny ball the next in a vulnerable state is a testament to the intelligence with which he commands his mind over body. Attending his workshop enlightened me to his very engaged method of dancing, accepting no less than sniper precision for movement. His moving quality translates so well as it combines with choreography that comes from a deeply personal space.
His partner in crime, Emily Gualtieri, paired up with three of the Mocean girls: Jacinte Armstrong, Rhonda Baker and Gillian Seaward-Boone to create a raw representation of mythology and how it relates to today’s society: “Stealing Fire”
During the post-show talk back with the artists Gualtieri was so eloquent about her decision making process; explaining her choice to dress the girls in larger than life costumes reasoning they were in warrior dress; at the highlight of their strength. Gualtieri’s ability to showcase the strength and personality of each dancer added tension between the characters, as Gillian offered, reflections of their real-life in studio dynamic.
Each dancer reaching towards the ultimate proof of power, fire, the piece reminded me of the struggle the female gender often revolves around: to out-do, overcome and ultimately steal the next rung on the ladder of success. The three characterize competition; Armstrong representing the vulnerable but steadfast role among the three as supportive line backer. Holding stature between the two taller dancers beautifully strong and elegant she relinquishes the stage to the other two her role reflecting one that I often take on, the sacrifice of self to make way for others. An often frustrating yet integral role in order to keep a community on it’s feet as competition can often have an implosive result.
I’m writing about the first piece last for the fact that it truly touched and surprised me as an audience member. At a time when dancers struggle to come up with the next inventive concept from sound experimentation to audience involvement which can often times come across as gimmicky, Coffin’s raw and emotional choreography “standing alone facing you” steers away from the contrived contemporary mash ups; reaching out to the audience in a truly touching symposium of emotion.
Featuring the ever powerful Seaward-Boone and Coffin herself, the duet choreographed as if it were a solo performed by two dancers delves into a very personal investigation of what it’s like to interact with yourself daily. We all have multiple sides of ourselves that debate, challenge and support through various daily routines.
A surprisingly tender moment came when Gillian whispered into Sara’s ear before lending her physical support as Coffin gives her full weight to her supportive counterpart to the soundtrack of violin provided by Jaques Mindreau. An often tumultuous conversation when examining the relationship between yourself and yourself, I thought this was a really beautiful perspective on how rather than your own worst enemy, you truly can be your own best friend, and is really actually necessary for survival.
With truly innovative contact movement (I would expect nothing less form the contact queen herself) and blazingly honest text Coffin assembled a breath taking emotional journey of what the relationship can consist of between self and self. Weighty, ecstatic, supportive, aloof she seemed to touch on each possible interaction. As the culmination of the piece came to a head the girls bared their souls flailing (expertly executed flailing movements if I may add) to the sound of their own live recorded voice encouraging the audience to be in the moment they’ve worked so hard for. A refreshingly uplifting and tender examination of the personal landscape, it was all I could do not to tear up as the girls reminded me of of my own worth, landing on my Buddhist beliefs that just by being present your personal achievement arrives. Supported beautifully by the brilliant set and sound design of Brian Riley, “standing alone facing you” is a tender, real, honest and soulful account of the personal sphere.
As the group prepares for their last show this evening I hope Ordinary Rebels is in your plans. If you plan to hit the club tonight make the Neptune Studio theatre your first stop as I’m convinced it will stir in you inspiration and set you on a good foot for the rest of the night. Your fave watering hole will still be there, these people make sacrifices and dedicate every waking hour to bring these moving performances to us, let’s get out and support their efforts; we can only benefit from it.
In David Albert-Toth’s words as we left his workshop “I F%#@ing Love Dance!”
8PM/Thurs – Sat/21-23 January/2016