Craving the connection

Mairéad Filgate and Julie Robert from Mocean Dance. Photo: Kevin MacCormack

Mocean Dance welcomes fans back this week with its new live production Petites Danses at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth on Apr. 9 and 10. The show features seven dancers and four actors from the local arts community.

Petites Danses is something that has been rolling around in different cities since 2015,” says choreographer Marie-Josée Chartier. “It’s been a busy time and a nice creative process, and everybody is diving in. The time is short, but everyone is diving in with full confidence and concentration, so we’ve accomplished a lot.”

Marie-Josée Chartier

Eight pieces comprise the performance, with some local adjustments.

“I am revisiting three of the eight dances,” Chartier says. “I’ve changed one of them and made a brand new one for the five women of Mocean … Each one of these short dances is about 10 minutes long so that each can live on their own [for future performances]. By Mocean having this dance, that is part of the exchange. They have this piece that they can also, if they want to, do on their own. It has a life of its own too if the desire is there.”

That legacy excites local organizers.

“We like that this project is connected to a national process,” says Susanne Chui, Mocean Dance’s co-artistic director. “We are part of a lineage that is doing this work … They are changing so much with the actors and dancers and performers that are here. I can see Marie Josée enjoying and seeing how this group of people and this town bring a new dimension to work. The work is out of an evolving, living thing, so it’s cool to do that.”

Unlike many arts groups, Mocean Dance has been busy throughout the pandemic. Since changes in public health rules last August, the group has been able to have practices, rehearsals, and classes.

Susanne Chui

Unable to host large audiences, Mocean turned to virtual platforms, offering Zoom artist talks and dance films.

“We are the hub for dance,” Chui says. “We have a lot of responsibility to the community to keep it going. We decided we would do whatever it took to keep it going, and we have taken it by the reins … Thank goodness we could even be in the studio. Everyone can feel gratitude. We know most people can’t do this, so we’re trying not to take it lightly.”

The women in the show reflect the burdens women have carried through the pandemic.

“The women of the show have been holding up their own families in the community,” Chui says. “It’s pertinent to have this group of leaders on stage, having the courage and bravery to work through the whole year, to work and come together, come on stage and to reflect that to the audience … To have the strong women on stage together, working through the challenges of the piece, it will inevitably be a metaphor for the challenges of the year and life.”

Once this set of performances is completed, Mocean Dance will take a week off before a choreography lab in Ross Creek. In August, the troupe will be involved in a Rebecca Lazier-directed large-scale collaboration with Live Art Dance and Breaking Circus.

Meanwhile, Chiu hopes Petites Danses will lift spirits and inspire audiences.

“I hope people come and they soak in the experience,” says Chiu. “There’s a lot of subtlety in their work, and there’s a lot of detail into the whole history in work … I hope people give themselves the time to be in the dark, be with us, see themselves reflected in work, and take it in and taste it. I hope those people take in the connection because we’re craving that too as artists.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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