Creative Facilitator Information

Justine Chambers - 2023 Guest Creative Facilitator

A woman with dark hair in a white jumpsuit leans back looking up

Photo Courtesy of Justine A. Chambers

A word from Justine:

Lennie Louise Robinson, my great grandmother and a legacy of the Great Migration, danced at one of Bugsy Malone’s Chicago nightclubs in her youth. Throughout the 1940s, my grandmother, Delores Hutchinson, danced every Friday night at the historic Parkway Ballroom on the South Side of Chicago. My mother made dancing a priority in our lives. I secretly watched my parents dancing together from the top of the stairs throughout my childhood.

These are the origins of my dance history and it emerges from the Black American Diaspora. My work is a continuation and a collaboration with those dance histories. That collaboration begins with a question my grandmother often asks: “You feel me?” The question is both a personal orientation and an invitation to re-orient and include what is held in our flesh. It asserts that the ability to feel is not an accompaniment to, or an attribute of, our lived experience, but rather, it is how we live. I meet this question in my practice and research by attending to individual and collective embodied archives, social choreographies of the everyday, and choreography/dance as an opening towards other ways of being in relationship. My work centres embodied practice as research and values the transmission of information between bodies. I am dedicated to situating my work in relation (to a wide range of performance spaces, urban planning, architecture, governance structures, intended and intended audiences, and other art practices), always within the context of the present. The work meets the moment and is changed by it. How can we inhabit already existing structures and systems that allow for our collective aspirations to unfold? What are the shifts and disruptions that we want to embody, and what are the ways that we can do this together?

Justine A. Chambers is a dance artist and educator living and working on the ancestral and traditional Coast Salish territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Her movement based practice considers how choreography can be an empathic practice rooted in collaborative creation, close observation, and the body as a site of a cumulative embodied archive. Privileging what is felt over what is seen, she works with dances that are already there – the social choreographies present in the everyday.

Her recent choreographic projects include: Steady, Waking Hours, And then this also, One hundred more, tailfeather, for all of us, it could have been like this, ten thousand times and one hundred more, Family Dinner, Family Dinner: The Lexicon, and Semi-precious: the faceting of a gemstone only appears complete and critical. Chambers' recent projects have been hosted by Western Front, Sophiensaele (Berlin), Contemporary Art Gallery, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Agora de la Danse (Montreal), Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery (Haverford College), Vancouver Art Gallery, Burrard Arts Foundation, Canada Dance Festival (Ottawa), Nanaimo Art Gallery, Artspeak, Burrard Arts Foundation, Mile Zero Dance Society, Dance in Vancouver, Festival of New Dance (St. John's) and Art Museum at University of Toronto.

Chambers is the recipient of the Lola Dance Prize (2018), and was selected for the Visiting Dance Artist Program at the National Arts Centre (2018-2021), Artist in Residence at SFU’s Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERi). Chambers is currently a Term Lecturer at the School for Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. She is Max Tyler-Hite’s mother.

Sara Coffin - Creative Facilitator and Program Director

two dancers with heads together in blue light

Photo Credit Kevin MacCormack

A word from Sara:
I see the stage, in its many shapes, sizes, and contexts as a mirror for human experience. I feel the poetry of our existence can be reflected in both the virtuosic imagination and the subtlety of the mundane.

I am thrilled to cultivate a forum for creative practice, research, and dialogue such as CLEaR Forum for the Atlantic Provinces. Talking while making, reflecting while doing, observing while moving, etc. all of these combinations have been key values in my own choreographic process and understanding my body of work. These values have also informed the construction of the CLEaR Forum Lab. For me, the legacy of an artist’s choreographic work does not lie in the performance tally, but instead in the relationships built in the studio. Particularly, one’s personal relationship to their mode of inquiry and the ability to confront, pull apart, sit quietly, or embrace their modality of working.

Annually at CLEaR Forum we aim to make a space for possibility, for reflection – the rest and digest for the creative nervous system, and we also seek the gems found in a creative rub or facing hard obstacles. The lab takes place in the beautiful Annapolis Valley near the wondrous Bay of Fundy tides, at a time when the landscape begins to renew and rejuvenate and the local area animals awaken from hibernation. This time of year is a gift for reflective thought and a wonderful metaphor for the coming together of the collective body tending to their own gardens’ of creative practice.

Sara Coffin is an award-winning dance artist, choreographer, improviser, dance educator and Co-Artistic Director of Mocean Dance.

Sara received the Nova Scotia Established Artist Award from Arts NS in 2018, completed her MFA in Choreography and Performance at Smith College in Northampton, MA (2014), BSc. in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University (2005) and BFA in dance at Simon Fraser University’s School for Contemporary Arts (2003). She has ‘taught’ or facilitated the creative process in an organized construct at in the Five College Consortium (Smith College and Hampshire College, Massachusetts), NSCAD University, and Holland College School of Performing Arts (Summerside, PEI). Sara’s work has been presented in many prominent dance venues across Canada including; Dancing on the Edge, Magnetic North/Canada Dance Festival, ROMP!, Dance in Vancouver, and across the Atlantic Provinces.

The process of inquiry, navigating the unknown, and nurturing emergent vocabulary is the main catalyst in her personal choreographic investigation. Sara has sought mentorship and provocation throughout her career, engaging in choreographic labs, workshops, and round-table discussions centralized to the creative gesture. Her studies have led her across the globe dissecting and being inspired by some of the dance field’s most stimulating creators. A list of her study highlights and mentors include: Paul Andre Fortier, Marten Spangbërg, Dana Gingras, Jennifer Mascall, Susie Burpee, Tedd Robinson, Project CPR with Claire French, the Montreal Danse Choreographic Lab with Kathy Casey, Larry Lavender, Philip Szporer, Donna Faye Burchfield (ADF/ Hollins), Chris Aiken, Angie Hauser, and Mike Vargas at Smith College (USA), and the Banff Dramaturgy Program with Ruth Little (UK) and Liz Lerman (USA).

Currently her interests within a making practice centre around: stamina and sustainability, permeability and legibility, the poetics of failure, and courage sought through vulnerability. Fundamentally, Coffin continually notices that she is also the happiest in wild spaces.

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