Later this month, MoMo Dance Theatre will be presenting I Didn’t Wear My Raincoat. The company’s latest production will explore the four seasons with original work from its performance ensemble members and new work created by guest artists.
And as the company prepares for opening night, Artistic Director Mark Ikeda remembers when he first started working with MoMo Dance Theatre two years ago.
“Just walking into that door was like walking into a big hug. Everyone was so welcoming and just wanted to see what I had to share, and was so ready to engage” said Ikeda who was teaching workshops for the company at the time.
When it was announced that then Artistic Director Pam Boyd was leaving the company, Ikeda lept at the opportunity to fill the position. Ikeda says he was not only taken by the overwhelming positivity of the MoMo family, but that he was also impressed by the skill level going in.
“There are some challenges…but being able to launch into the work and really dig into some ideas has never been a problem…when I was welcomed by that idea I was enticed into the MoMo family.”
Founded in 2003, MoMo Mixed Ability Dance Theatre offers artists of all abilities and skill levels a range of classes focused on growth through creative movement. Currently, the company offers three adult classes and two youth classes. As well, MoMo offers performance opportunities for its members.
Part of the company’s mission is to facilitate artistic expression by removing barriers that might otherwise restrict the exchange of ideas between artists. For Ikeda, a combination of improvised and choreographed movement works best to achieve this mandate.
“While we do we have set choreography…other times we’ll explore a mood or an emotion or a thought or a color, even. Let’s say we’re exploring sunshine…we’re all going to move like sunshine until someone claps. And so, in that while everyone is in the same or at least similar idea and adapting it to their own bodies…they can move how they like to move and interpret the idea of sunshine [as they like]. It’s open to exploration.”
But in order for this exploration to truly take off, Ikeda says, an individual must first feel comfortable within the space. Ikeda explains that this turning point usually occurs after three classes.
“If someone will come to three classes, they’ll usually open up. That’s kind of the shifting point… for someone totally new to feel comfortable and engage in the activities. And so, after three classes, there’s that open – and again it’s like that family idea of who are you and how we can play? How can we enjoy each other in this art?”
This year, the first in a three year process, MoMo launched an outreach program to share their passion for play with various communities.
With funds received by The Calgary Foundation, the company has been able to partner with URSA (Universal Rehabilitation Service Agency), the Calgary Association of Self-Help, the Vecova Centre, and Carewest Garrison Green. In these spaces, MoMo’s dance teachers promote community and personal development through interdisciplinary, communal physical activity. What results is a holistic approach to wellness, something the partner organizations have praised.
“There’s a bunch of papers out right now about how interdisciplinary and communal physical activity is one of the strongest ways of bringing someone into an idea of what a community is…and the idea of empathy that if you’re doing the same thing as I am, I can see that not only are we a team, but you have your own unique way of doing things.”
“A lot of those intangibles…can’t really be measured or quantified…[but] when you can engage with someone creatively…be able to go into yourself, find an idea or thought or something that hasn’t existed either in you or outside of you before and share it with other people there is an intelligible connection that happens…MoMo has for over a decade now found a way to set that up for people who identify as having disabilities.”
And with MoMo’s spring performance fast approaching, the company looks to add another success to an already great year.
A dance piece audiences can expect to see in the production is one choreographed by Ikeda which incorporates the use of hand stilts. Hand stilts have been famously used in the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King to portray giraffes. Ensemble member Thomas Poulsen, who uses crutches, will be the performer raised off the ground alongside Ikeda.
“[I thought about] what would be a great duet with [Thomas] or piece for him. I thought of these hand stilts and how a lot of the movement I have to do to stay up on the hand stilts are quite similar to the movement he uses everyday and he uses on the dance floor. We’ve been exploring for a few weeks now and I really love where it’s going.”
And it is this love for play and exploration that makes MoMo Dance Theatre a company to watch.
MoMo Dance Theatre’s I Didn’t Wear My Raincoat runs March 26 – 28 at the Vertigo Studio Theatre.
Tickets can be purchased online here: momo.brownpapertickets.com
For more information on the company, visit: http://www.momodancetheatre.org/