Mocean: 15 Years to Celebrate

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Well, the dust has settled and just over a week after the Mocean Dance production, people are still talking about it.

As the lights came up on our last performance of 15, celebrating 15 years of Mocean Dance, I looked right, and left then towards the audience and internally celebrated having shared the stage with such a talented, strong and eclectic group of professional dancers. Produced by Live Art Dance; Mocean Dance Company and the community showcased these attributes well.

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Getting warmed up back stage. Photo by: Susanne Chui

I was able to glimpse the show from the audience during dress rehearsal on the afternoon of opening night.

Beginning with “Our Unfortunate Deaths” featuring Rhonda Baker, Gillian Seaward-Boone and Sara Rozee; a comical trio of dancers set to baroque style music and period costume bloomers. A 45 minute piece, the three bicker and cajole one another with slaps, kicks shoves and surprise trips in a captivating, and rhythmically complex piece. Full technical ability on display as the three moved through flexible positions and high cardio sequences; the highlight for myself as a viewer were the incredibly quick responses to one another requiring the utmost awareness and performance chemistry.

Mouse traps, bubble wrap and powerful rocks seemingly randomly appeared shedding light on the three girls’ disconnect and in the same moment, awkward but close relationships. Seated near Carolle Crooks one of the originally casted dancers, (and founders of Mocean Dance) in this remounted choreography by Sharon Moore, I heard reminiscent laughter as she relived each movement she had once herself performed. Curious if the movements were all carbon copied onto these new dancers, she answered my question with a quick “Yes, with interpretation.” I was pretty dumfounded by this as the quick knee jerks and intricate hand coordination seemed so personal by each dancer which usual points to them being some part of the creation process. But Crooks corrected me with a quick example of how Moore would stand directly in front of each dancer and quickly lay down movements for them to just as quickly pick up.

A truly exuberant use of theatre, dance, prop and scenery made this eclectic piece feel as though I was looking behind the scenes of a baroque painting seeing the politics that were not meant for the viewers’ eyes.

Switching to a pedestrian style choreography, “For a Quartet” explored the number Four and how it related to the dancers and to outside elements familiar to the audience. Four microphones lined the stage and four dancers appeared one by one in the triangular lighting highlighting their beautiful costuming colour palette. Choreographed seemingly with a designer’s eye, the dance moved away and toward the microphones and in and out of pedestrian style running and speeches.

For a Quartet (2016), 2min Trailer – Mocean Dance from Mocean Dance on Vimeo.

Weight sharing duets turned into quickly coordinating linear quartets. The dancers, Sara Coffin, Jacinte Armstrong, Sara Rozee and Elise Vanderborght entered into soft and angular dance styling sharpened by the mustard yellow, Crayola blue, plum and grey pants, highlighting their similar palette but strong contrasts as independent movers. Captivating movement created by Danièle Desnoyers included these sharp angular shapes and rhythms with the casual entrance of softness as one person reached out to support the others’ weight.

The stark contrast between the first two choreographies gave them the true feeling of past and present, as Desnoyers’ choreography felt like the type of modern architecture many are so fond of with clean lines, stark, intentional lighting and bright contrasting colours.

The last choreography arranged by Sara Coffin and Suzanne Chui was quilted together over many weeks of rehearsal with almost all of the Halifax dance community involved. Featuring 18 dancers, 15 choreographers and 15 pieces, we managed to pull off an almost unheard of feat in this small city; a large group performance.

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Sara Coffin with Mocean Dance and Friends Photo: Michelle Doucette Photography Courtesy of: Mocean Dance

Often times with limited funding and scheduling available, 3 to 4 dancers on stage at one time is the norm. For many of the audience members I spoke with after the show, having a large group of dancers on stage at once was truly a treat. One viewer even compared the piece to schools of fish swimming hurriedly from one direction to the other before breaking off to become independently human again.

It’s my belief that the excitement in witnessing 15 dancers on stage at once is the renouncing of the individual to become a force; a force that draws on its’ power unattainable by one or two people alone. The shedding of ones’ own individuality to become part of something greater is something I believe we miss out on in our increasingly more isolated lives. The experience touched me; yearning for a solidly formed community able to stitch together meaningful thought, movement and ideals. I hope to continue quilting together colours and relationships through dance using the force of many to convey its’ potency.

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Mocean and friends rehearsing for 15 Photo: Courtesy of Mocean Dance

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