Mocean Dance wants to make dance more accessible as dancer and choreographer Jacinte Armstrong, together with dance artists Gillian Seaward-Boone and Lauren Runions and multidisciplinary artist Camille-Zoé Valcourt-Synnott, lead audiences in the cooperative building of her new work, Play.
… I love opportunities for people to reconsider what they think is dance or what they think they can do. – Jacinte Armstrong.
“It’s a quartet about improvisation, movement, imagination, and play through movement,” explains Armstrong.
In addition to using what Armstrong calls the usual elements of dance – movement, space, time and ensemble – the piece also utilizes a variety of objects and materials. It is also an invitation for audiences to be active players.
“We’re also inviting the audience to have less of a sitting and watching experience, with several moments where we invite participation,” she continues.
Armstrong compares the idea of audience participation in Play to exploring a museum or art gallery.
“When you are taking in the artwork, you do so usually by walking through the space, so your body is in motion and engaged with the artwork,” she says. “With Play, while people can definitely sit and watch, they are also invited to be active players, but we will never ask anybody to do something they don’t want to do.”
But while audience participation, or “inclusion” as she prefers, is encouraged and an integral part of Play, Armstrong says involvement is unnecessary to get something out of the piece.
“We can do the whole show ourselves without a single audience member doing anything, but it’s more fun if people join in,” she says. “We’ve worked quite hard to make invitations [to participate] ranging from the very small to bigger moments. It could be as small as asking someone to hold a piece of paper for a moment.”
Play also runs between casual and formal tones, balancing performance and audience inclusion. “When it’s more formal, we will perform, and sometimes we’ll invite more of an informal exchange through movement and objects,” she says.
And while improvisation plays a big part in Play, Armstrong says it is still very much a structured piece that ultimately “plays” with the question, is it dance or not?
“There is humour in it, and it is fun, and there are things we think people will like to do,” she says. “Play is not like any dance piece you will have seen before, and I love opportunities for people to reconsider what they think is dance or what they think they can do.”
In addition to the public performances of Play, Armstrong and Mocean Dance will host the second of two free workshops on October 28 at the Halifax Public Library as a lead-in to the show.
“It’s a little bit of sharing and a little bit of research,” says Armstrong. “We’re not presenting the whole piece in the workshops but will share a couple sections or events where we invite people to try them out and improvise a little bit and see how it goes, which will still give them an experience and will also help us to see how people play with our ideas.”
Mocean Dance presents Play on November 3 and 4 at All Nations Church (2535 Robie St., Halifax). Visit moceandance.com for tickets and information.