Arts

Mocean offers up ’emotional, vulnerable’ dance performance

Mocean Dance ready with new show "Ordinary Rebels."

Sara Coffin (bottom) and Gillian Seaward-Boone rehearse their piece standing alone facing you.   Mikkel Frederiksen

There’s little more than a week until the premiere of Ordinary Rebels.

For Mocean Dance, it’s this year’s biggest local event. Three pieces, one performance. Three nights to showcase the company’s talents, its ambitions and its hopes for the coming year.

Rehearsal is in the final stage. In the studio, Sara Coffin, co-artistic director and choreographer, lies on the floor. Her head is cradled in the lap of her dance partner Gillian Seaward-Boone.

Coffin’s eyes stare coolly ahead, her mouth working out an unbroken stream of words that when taken together relay her character’s doubts, frustrations and fears.

The piece is called standing alone facing you; a portrayal of the struggle of living with yourself, a conflict between an inner and external self. Today’s focus is one scene in particular:

“This scene is in the middle and is kind of the turning point for the whole piece,” Coffin said.

Two other pieces will stand alongside Coffin’s when Ordinary Rebels premieres at the Neptune Theatre on Jan. 21.; Emily Gualtieri’s Stealing Fire and David Albert-Toth’s La Chute. Though each is its own individual performance, the three pieces connect through a shared interest in the question of identity.

Coffin says ticketholders shouldn’t expect to sit back and let the show wash over them.

“The audience is going to feel tired after seeing our show because of how much physical work and emotional, vulnerable work that happens on stage,” Coffin says. ”A lot of pieces are going to dark places, so we hope to bring people with us to those dark places and have a real gut experience.”

When asked about the title of Ordinary Rebels, she refers to artists’ place within their community.

“Everyone’s a rebel in their own right because they’re carving their own path. Being artists, we are of a rebellious nature, we live on the fringes and not following the status quo. Then at the same time, what we are talking about is an ordinary, human experience that we all share.”

Ordinary Rebels will be the 10th main stage production created and produced by Mocean Dance. It’s a banner-night in many ways. It’s a showcase, but also an invitation to celebrate a story that started almost 15 years ago.

“The Mocean story is that we’re home-grown. It was started by five women who wanted to live and work here and say ‘no’ to having to move to a big city to ‘follow the dream of dance.’”

That tradition continues.

“It started out as a dream and now it’s a vision that’s in function. We’ve worked hard to create a sustainable and excellent dance company where people can share and push their talent.”

Ultimately, Coffin feels Mocean has earned its place.

“We like to think we’re a big part of the cultural identity of Halifax,” she said. ”We have this joke called the ‘no’ in Nova Scotia – that in this province we tend to be a bit too modest. As a culture, we’re kind of submissive, we don’t push the edges in the same way a big city would. I feel Mocean Dance counters that.”

Coffin punctuates every word with a punch of finality.

“We’re here, we’re strong, we’re making work. I don’t have to go to a big city to dance. I feel that’s an important role.”