Thursday, December 8, 2022

Mocean Dance explores memory and place in Rewriting Distance

The Halifax dance company kicks off its 20th-anniversary season with the improvisational piece on December 9-12.

Mocean Dance kicks off its 20th-anniversary season with the improvisational contemporary dance piece Rewriting Distance. 

Because we’re all responding to the moment, all of the material is fresh … audiences are never going to see the same show twice.

Created by Canadian choreographer Lin Snelling and Belgian dramaturge Guy Cools, Rewriting Distance reunites the two creators with Mocean’s co-artistic director Susanne Chui, who participated in the first version of the dance piece in 2014.

“It started with the two of them performing and travelling around the world performing,” explains Chui. “Later on, they decided they wanted to travel to different cities and work with various artists who would influence the piece.”

Known as Repeating Distance in 2014, Snelling and Cools are now revisiting some companies that had initially performed the piece. And while Rewriting Distance may have received a name change over the years, its basic structure remains with a combination of dance, spoken word and other elements.

“There’s a specific form we use, but because it’s improvisational, every group brings a whole new meaning to it based on where they’re from, what time it is and what’s going on in the world,” says Chui.

That form consists of three components in which the artists can move between watching the show as part of the audience to being witnesses to what is transpiring. “And then they can move into the third stage, which is performing,” says Chui.

In 2014, Mocean co-artistic director, Susanne Chui, presented Rewriting Distance with a group of Halifax-based dancers and musicians. Now presented by Mocean Dance, this Halifax reunion features Snelling and Cools, alongside Mocean's co-artistic directors, Chui (photo above) and Sara Coffin, plus dance artist Jacinte Armstrong and musician Doug Cameron.
In 2014, Mocean co-artistic director, Susanne Chui, presented Rewriting Distance with a group of Halifax-based dancers and musicians. Now presented by Mocean Dance, this Halifax reunion features Snelling and Cools, alongside Mocean’s co-artistic directors, Chui (photo above) and Sara Coffin, plus dance artist Jacinte Armstrong and musician Doug Cameron.

As they move between the three stages, the artists continually gather information and are influenced by what is said, how they move and how they respond to each other.

“But the performance itself, whatever happens, happens,” says Chui. “So we’re creating in the moment, which is really part of the improvisational spirit of it all.”

While the piece traditionally consists of dance, storytelling and written word, the Halifax performances also introduce music.

“I convinced Lin and Guy that we should add musicians here because the city is so musical and it has such a long history of music and specifically improvisational music,” says Chui.

But while the piece may have first appeared in Halifax seven years ago, Chui says it is unnecessary to have seen the first to appreciate Rewriting Distance now.

“Because we’re all responding to the moment, all of the material is fresh,” says Chui. “It’s never going to happen again, and audiences are never going to see the same show twice.”

With the addition of spoken word, reading, writing and music to the prominent dance element of the piece, Chui says Rewriting Distance has a significant storytelling component.

“A lot of dance can be quite abstract even if it’s telling a story because there are no words,” she says. “But for this project, because storytelling is part of it, the audience really goes on a journey on their own evoking things in their memory, of their own experiences and allows them to go through this experience where their imagination becomes really alive.”

Rewriting Distance runs December 9 through 12 at the Christ Church Cathedral Parish Hall (61 Dundas Street, Dartmouth), with ASL interpretation available at two shows. The show will also be available via live stream on December 10. Visit moceandance.com for tickets and information.

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