Tracing the growth of our Choreographic Lab, Exploration and Research residency.
The year 2023 marked the 10th anniversary of Mocean’s CLEaR Forum, our week-long residency-based choreographic lab that takes place at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in rural Nova Scotia. To mark this milestone, we're taking time to reflect and appreciate all the learning, play, and practice we've shared in the fertile ground of this yearly gathering.
Photo by Kevin MacCormack
Shaping a Forum for artistic expansion...
Designed and led by Sara Coffin, CLEaR Forum has grown from roughing-it roots, to a cozy, rustic retreat. Yet even in its earliest days, the program cultivated a space for artist-led growth and regeneration. The architecture of the program come from the values Sara cultivates in her own practice: relation, ease, joy, land, play, space, emergence, collaboration, potential, rest, comfort, risk; these pillars support a platform of exchange and exploration. Taking care not to leave anything assumed or implicit, these values are spoken aloud, and shape the air of meeting.
As the week begins, deep care for the agency of each individual within the program emerges as a foundational intention. In a strictly material sense, this means studio space for the week (24/7 access!), a skilled facilitation team to lead dialogue and exchange, housing with meals, and a stipend for the week. Put into practice, the valuing self-determination imbues a fluid potentiality within the container of the week. At times the artists delve into the hows and whys of their making practices, without plans for any future production. In other years, the cohort arrives with specific research questions, seeking to germinate ideas for new choreographic works. Depending on their goals, artists take on clearly defined roles of dancer and choreographer, with set groupings; but in recent years, more and more artists have sought to soften the boundaries between mover and maker, exploring with new combinations of minds and bodies each day in a horizontal plane.
An oceanside outing at Ross Creek Beach. Photo Credit: Anna Wansbrough Photography, 2019 CLEaR Forum Participant
When everyone finally meets, creating a schedule for the week is the first collaborative endeavour by the artists and facilitators, and continually revisited in response to the daily ebbs and flows of energy. Within CLEaR Forum’s container of care, rest is given equal weight to the working hours, and encouraged through connection with the land. Sara encourages artists to take time off to walk the grounds, to exist under the spring sun with no agenda. Everyone is invited to join a traditional oceanside outing (with a cold dip in the May waters for the brave!), to sit by the fire at night, to hike the Ross Creek trail. No activity is mandatory, yet the call of the land is usually irresistible.
Walking the grounds at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. Photo Credit: Anna Wansbrough Photography, 2019 CLEaR Forum Participant
Having ample recharge time allows artists to immerse themselves in their in-studio work with intensity. So care must also extend to sustaining the artist - and it’s a running joke that the centre provides 6 square meals a day, between breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks!
A group lobster meal is another stand-out tradition maintained at the Forum, where Sara gives a crash course in how to eat lobster, with hands, hammer and garden shears for tools. Still wet from boiling, inevitably a claws shoot across a table, while water sprays out under hammer blows to cries of surprise and laughter. As our 2023 facilitator Justine A. Chambers reminded us, the word "company" comes from the latin "com" meaning together, and "panis" meaning bread. In breaking bread together for a week, creative discussions deepen, blossoming into those getting-to-know-you conversations that build lasting relationships.
A seasonal dance of meeting...
Looking through the ten year history of this residency, common themes reverberate in the softly held space Sara has crafted, seasonal echoes across the years. As I attempt to tease out an understanding of these essential qualities, I feel the green shoots of spring at Ross Creek calling us to cultivate anew the seeds of our practices, our values as artists and humans. I see attentions tune into emergence and relation, through the shared unfurling of souls meeting in creation, opening to each other’s perspectives. Finally, I sense a rooting of time back into the cycles of the living earth, from the breathing tides of the Bay of Fundy, to our own heartbeat pump. These vital rhythms carry us back to our deep human urge to dance - to seek togetherness in movement. CLEaR Forum offers a place to center one's artistic practice within the shared dance of our living world.
Photo by Kevin MacCormack
Sunny days call for outdoor play.
Lisa Phinney Langley
Landscape views from the studio. Photo Credit: Anna Wansbrough Photography, 2019 CLEaR Forum Participant
Bringing the creative process outdoors. Photo Credit: Marlowe Porter, 2018 CLEaR Forum Participant
Marie Claire Forté
Working on a still life on the back patio. Photo Credit: Anna Wansbrough Photography, 2019 CLEaR Forum Participant
Justin de Luna
Sarah Joy Stoker
Sunset on the Bay of Fundy. Photo Credit: Su-feh Lee, 2019 and 2022 CLEaR Forum Guest Facilitator
Justine A. Chambers
Aisha Sasha John