Speaking with MOSAICA McGill coordinators and dancers Alexandra Phillips and Nicole Aarssen just before the opening night of their end-of-year show last Thursday, I get a little glimpse into what it’s like to be a part of an entirely student-run dance group. This year’s finale show is called R: Three Decades of Dance, alluding to the company’s 30th anniversary, which makes it one of the oldest arts groups on campus.
Encompassing everything from ballet to hip-hop, Thursday’s performances certainly don’t disappoint, displaying the range of impressive talent that is MOSAICA McGill’s 19 dancers. As Aarssen shares excitedly, the group’s versatility is seen as one of its strengths.
“We really pride ourselves on being diverse,” she says. “Like you’ll see tonight, we have a point ballet dance, a hip-hop dance, a tap dance, a jazz dance, and a lyrical dance all in the same show, so that’s pretty cool.”
It goes as no surprise that these dedicated dancers devote a great many hours to their craft. On a basic weekend, they rehearse between 8-10 hours; though, as Phillips explains, when they are close to a performance MOSAICA pretty much takes over their lives.
“This week was crazy,” Phillips says. “We were rehearsing all day Sunday, Monday night, all day Wednesday, and all day today […] It’s definitely a huge time commitment but we all love it.”
Both Aarsen and Phillips explain that the group does many non-MOSAICA social activities together, but they also make a point of fostering closeness while they work.
“We start each company rehearsal with a circle, where we sit down and just sort of chat for a bit, tell everyone what’s going on” says Aarssen. “It’s a nice sort of ‘What happened in your week’ moment before we get to work.”
Although the end of year performance is MOSAICA’s main focus—they begin working on it as soon as school starts in September—they also have a number of smaller performances throughout the year such as the CASCO charity show that raises money for The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Phillips also mentions MOSAICA’s Gert’s nights, the last of which takes place on April 3.
“We do mini dances throughout the night; it gives people the chance to get to know us and it’s pretty casual, a lot more laid back,” she says.
Not only do the members of MOSAICA sport exceptional talent as dancers, they also get to try their hand at choreography.
“Each number you see MOSAICA perform is a member’s piece,” explains Phillips. “They get to choose the music, who’s in their dance, what costumes they wear and what kind of style they do. They are completely in charge of it. A lot of us only choreographed for the first time when we came to MOSAICA. […] Most of us came from very competitive strict backgrounds where you have very little say, [and] there’s a lot of hierarchy. We’re really all on equal ground here, so I feel like a lot of people grow when they’re in MOSAICA.”
For any dancers at McGill looking to join MOSAICA’s vibrant community, Phillip’s has some advice.
“We look for someone who may not be the best, but someone who has style and looks like they could grow into [more advanced dancing],” she says. “We’re looking for someone who is very open to trying all sorts of things”
And to anyone whose first audition was not successful, Aarssen has some words of encouragement.
“Keep coming back!” she exclaims. “It changes from year to year who we can take, and it’s always great to see people come out [….] We’re always looking for fresh faces.
MOSAICA’s Gert’s night is on Thursday, April 3. Admission is $3 at the door.