Mocean’s early days

Mocean Dance's five founders set up a company built to last

Mocean’s first decade grew the company into what it is today. Founded by Carolle Crooks Fernando, Sarah Rozee, Alicia Orr MacDonald, Sara Harrigan and Lisa Phinney Langley (who left after a few years), Crooks Fernando credits the company’s strength and longevity to two things: Halifax’s excellent talent and a strong foundation of organization. “We were really focused on setting it up so it would have strong organizational foundations. That sounds really boring…but we did that because we wanted operating funding from Canada Council. Then you know you have foundations, you can rely on it, dancers can rely on it.”

Crooks Fernando and the other founders knew first-hand that there was a real desire for dancers to work, live and dance in Halifax, so the vision was to create a company “set up to last.”

“Fifteen years ago as a dancer in Halifax, my teachers were basing their career here, but teaching a million hours to support themselves, no one was able to have a 100-percent performance-based career with all self-made work. There was no format for multiple dancers to come together and collaborate and no critical mass of work,” says Crooks Fernando. “We didn’t—and still don’t—have a professional training school like in Montreal or Toronto, so a lot of people left.”

Enter Mocean. With varied professional backgrounds—Crooks Fernando is a lawyer, Orr MacDonald holds a BSc in neuroscience, Phinney Langley is an Environment Canada scientist–along with Rozee and Harrigan’s professional experience in dance and choreography, the crew knew how to get shit done. That’s not to say things always went according to plan. “We’ve had to sleep in a van on the Cobequid Pass stuck in the snow, we’ve rebuilt the show an hour before the show, we made our first budget on a small piece of paper at Mary’s Bread Basket. We had to decide if we were going to do a show and not get paid for a year, or not do it and get paid. We made the show.”

Like many arts organizations in Halifax, perseverance and grit forged the company. Crooks Fernando sums it up, laughing: “Our phrase was ‘Well, we’re not totally fucked yet, but…’”


FIFTEEN by Mocean Dance
September 22-24, 8pm
Sir James Dunn Theatre
Tickets available through

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