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The economy of dance

Halifax dancers want to come home

by Rebecca Zimmer

A new dance performance by the Mocean Dance Company provides a rare opportunity for young dancers to come home and hone their craft.  There should be many more projects like it, dancers say. Photo Rebecca Zimmer
A new dance performance by the Mocean Dance Company provides a rare opportunity for young dancers to come home and hone their craft. There should be many more projects like it, dancers say. Photo Rebecca Zimmer
Photo Rebecca Zimmer
Photo Rebecca Zimmer
Photo Rebecca Zimmer
Photo Rebecca Zimmer

(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - Sara Coffin knows that nothing ever comes easy for Halifax dancers.

As Artistic Director at the Mocean Dance Company and as a dancer herself, Coffin is working to provide Haligonians new opportunities to give dance a try.

“We are predominately a creation-based company that make dance works to perform and tour but then through our outreach and education stream we want to give these artists opportunities to develop," says Coffin.

There is a sad reality when it comes to dance in Halifax. With the closest professional training facility in Montreal, dancers need to take their toes elsewhere if they want professional dance training.

“When you get to grade 10, 11, 12, than you hit a roof as far as your training goes,” says dancer Sarah Hopkin, who currently commutes from Toronto to dance in Halifax. “There isn't any sort of training facility here that can bridge the gap between pre-professional and professional [training]. That tends to be when everyone leaves.”

The trouble then becomes giving young dancers a reason to come back home.

The Mocean Dance Company gave this rare gift to four Halifax dancers this winter with their Emerge Program, a paid internship to dance in Halifax.

For Hopkin, along with her fellow Emerge dancers, this is a welcome opportunity, albeit a short one.

“There is often this negative connotation with coming home, like you've given up or things didn't work for you while you were away. But really, more is happening here for me than in Toronto," says Hopkin.

There's no contest for Hopkin; Halifax's small pond is a better place to find or make dance opportunities than trying to navigate the Toronto ocean. Building networks and making connections is much easier in a smaller bowl.

“I would never have this opportunity in Toronto,” she says, “To work a paid job everyday dancing, going to class and then dancing all afternoon and that's your life. That's everyone's dream.”

Dartmouth native, Olivia Aubrecht, studied at Ryerson University before coming back home to dance with Mocean and the Emerge project .

Aubrecht had a tough decision to make before she did. The urge to come home was so strong that she passed up an opportunity to dance in the Bahamas.

“I thought it would be more beneficial to me to be working so closely with a Canadian dance company which is related to my hometown,” says Aubrecht. “Being a part of that community was more important to me than going away and everyone just forgetting your face.”

With a small but tight-knit dance scene in Halifax, all of the Emerge dancers see the significance of coming back home to help the scene grow.

“[When] you're moving away from home, there are tonnes of sacrifice and emotional stuff that's wrapped up in that,” says Vivika Ballard, who studied ballet in Winnipeg for seven years before coming back to Halifax. “Dancing locally back home is super important to me.”

Georgia Skinner, a Dartmouth native who studied at the School of Toronto Dance before coming back to teach sees the growth potential in the Halifax dance scene.

First, the scene must reach out to a broader audience, she says. “Halifax definitely has a opportunity to do that in a way that it supports art in general because everyone seems to be really open here.”

And Skinner is right about that. The culture sector contributed $871 million to the provincial economy in 2009 and has shown significant growth in the last few years, performance art included.

 

The final performance of Emerge's collaborative work is tonight at 8 PM, at DANSpace-on-Grafton in dowtown Halifax . It is part of the Kinetic Studio Dance Open Studio Series.

 

 


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Topics: Arts
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