sarah koekkoek is an independent dance artist, choreographer and trauma informed educator based in Toronto/Tkarón:to. Her research and choreography examines movement as a language that can help nourish greater understanding and compassion with our relationship to self, others and the earth. Currently her work is exploring our punctured relationship and existence within the abused and exploited natural world, developing an environment of (physical) emotions surrounding climate change and the anthropocene.
After receiving classical ballet training from The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School sarah went on to perform with some of Canada’s largest ballet companies (Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Ballet Jorgen and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet). sarah continues to study movement and choreography through experimental movement exploration and participating in residencies at Banning Bouldins Nashville company New Dialect, and The Banff Centre of the Arts, and more.
As Artscape Gibraltar Point’s Winter Island Artist-In-Residence until March 2, 2020, we talked to sarah about her time on work as a dancer and choreographer and her residency.
What draws you to exploring the theme of the natural world using dance and movement?
sk: I am primarily drawn to the natural world as a place of ultimate freedom, solitude and wonder. I came to explore care and concerns of the natural world, climate crisis and the anthropocene through movement intuitively. Feeling blocked and stuck in the traditional dance studio setting, bringing my practice outside bridged the gap between my intellectual and emotional states of being.
sarah koekkoek exploring the Toronto islands during the Winter Island Artist Residency. (Photo: @jdeebo)
I found the way I danced was different: there was a conversation happening. As a mover and dancer, the relationship I have with nature is one that begins in reciprocity; I’m able to explore our connection with nature by offering and sharing what I know best: movement.
What is the project that you are working on at Artscape Gibraltar Point?
sk: I am working on a movement score/lexicon that can be utilized by anyone to deepen their connection with the land through embodied movement. By connecting to our bodies, we come to a greater understanding of ourselves and therefore a greater understanding of each other and the world around us. By fostering compassion and empathy for self, other, and the natural world, I hope this work will encourage folks to honour these relationships. To see ourselves not as separate objects, but rather a communion of subjects, a vast self-regulating system.
How does the environment of the Toronto Islands and the retreat space of Artscape Gibraltar Point facilitate your work/project?
sk: The Toronto Islands and Artscape Gibraltar Point have been essential in my process and work here. The other day a friend asked me why I chose to do this work in the winter and it really has been a dream. The island is so quiet, so sleepy, and yet so alive in the winter.
Toronto-based dance artist and choreographer, sarah koekkoek resided at Artscape Gibraltar Point in February 2020. (Photo: @jdeebo)
The lake has been my most influential collaborator in this work, changing each day and sharing an abundance of knowledge with me. I’ve come to realize how much I have been conditioned to limit or ignore the subtleties of the more-than-human world. Being here at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Islands has been a beautiful shedding of the armor that I dawn when in the city.
For details about self-directed or programmed artist residencies, visit Artscape Gibraltar Point‘s website.