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Bodies in Mocean

A Halifax dance company celebrates its 15th year with new and familiar pieces

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Sara Coffin, Sarah Rozee, and Jacinte Armstrong of Mocean Dance working in the studio on the new creation "Number 4, a quartet" by Montreal choreographer Daniele Desnoyers. Photo Credit: Rhonda Baker

Sara Coffin, Sarah Rozee, and Jacinte Armstrong of Mocean Dance working in the studio on the new creation "Number 4, a quartet" by Montreal choreographer Daniele Desnoyers. Photo Credit: Rhonda Baker

Fifteen years after co-founding Mocean Dance, Sarah Rozee can’t believe how fast the time has gone.

“It’s hard to believe what we had hoped for is really happening,” says the busy mom to nine-year-old Sophia, five-year-old Ezra and 18-month-old Willa. Rozee, Alicia Orr, Lisa Phinney, Carolle Crooks, and Sara Harrigan founded Mocean in 2001 and the contemporary dance company has become a staple on the Halifax dance scene. All five will be onstage as Mocean celebrates its 15th anniversary September 22 to 24 at the Sir James Dunn Theatre with a show opening Live Art Dance’s 2016–17 season.

The program includes:
• a new commission from Quebec choreographer Danièle Desnoyers;
• a remount of Our Unfortunate Deaths, choreographed by Sharon Moore and premiered by Mocean in 2010; and
15 for 15, 15 new works by 15 different choreographers, each one minute long.

“The piece represents the past, the present and future,” says Coffin, now co-artistic director of Mocean with Susanne Chui.

There will be dancers in their 20s who will someday take over the company; dancers in their 30s, including the founders and current company members; and dancers who are 40-plus, such as Maria Osende and Veronique MacKenzie, key members of the Halifax scene.

Fifteen dancers will be onstage for the whole piece. “Fifteen strong individuals, all women,” Coffin says. “You see that many all the time in big touring ballets, but you never see that with contemporary companies.”

Rozee, who thought 15 years ago she’d be retired by now, is still happily dancing. “I feel proud to have been part of the beginning, to watch it grow and change. Without Mocean, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had, to work with so many choreographers and artists. My whole time with Mocean has been one great workshop.”

In the beginning, the quintet was just trying to gain a footing, “to have a solid system so we could stand on our own,” she explains.

The five all trained at Halifax Dance and went away to study (Phinney at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Harrigan at SUNY Purchase in New York, Rozee at LADMMI in Montreal and Orr and Crooks at various dance intensives) and the idea of being able to make a living performing at home inspired the quintet, then aged 19 to 21, to take a chance.

Mocean (its name is a play on the words motion and ocean dreamed up by Phinney) has been a company-in-residence at Halifax Dance since 2002, providing opportunities for local dancers to create and perform in Halifax.

Beginning with Quintecentric, which had four sold-out shows at the Sir James Dunn Theatre in October 2003 just days after Hurricane Juan, Mocean has presented new works annually, working with such choreographers as Tedd Robinson, Roger Sinha, Susie Burpee, Howard Richard, and Allen and Karen Kaeja, plus many of local creators.

Canvas 5×5, first presented in 2012, is a finalist for the $25,000 Nova Scotia Masterworks Award this fall.

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