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A flippin farewell

By Amy Kenny

man in boots, black jeans and black t shirt jumping into the air with one hand wrapped around his head and the other across his body
Confessions of a Professional Dancer by Motus O performs at the Yukon Arts Centre on April 5.

 Motus O is the only dance company that tours with its own defibrillator. That’s what James Croker says.
Croker, in his 60s, is one of the three sexagenarian founders of the contemporary dance troupe, which has been performing, leading workshops, and offering educational programming in Canada for 35 years. 
“We can’t go on doing flips forever,” Croker says over the phone from Ontario, where Motus O is based in Stouffville.
That’s why Confessions of a Professional Dancer, which takes place at the Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) on April 5, will be the last show for Motus O members Croker, his wife Cynthia Croker and Jack Langenhuizen.  
Croker says Motus O had planned on doing this farewell tour pre-pandemic, but … well, you know what happened to everyone’s pre-pandemic plans.
“So it’s five years later we’re able to tour it,” he says. “We thought we were going to be too old.”
That’s because Motus O is a very physical theatre company. Its members have backgrounds in ballet and modern dance, as well as street theatre. Motus O was born when they realized there weren’t many jobs in ballet and contemporary dance.
Over time, the company developed its own aesthetic, which includes circus-style movements such as flips, acrobatics, and weight-bearing and sharing movements, where the dancers cantilever off each other.
Eventually, it expanded into workshops for kids and adults. Motus O was even “headhunted” at one point, by the Banff Centre, says Croker, to put together a leadership development program that used physical movement to teach corporate executives about work principles. He says they did that for seven years.

“What we wanted to do was find universal truths. Because who really cares if we’re dancing or not? It’s that old question of ‘if a tree falls in the forest and hits a mime, does anyone care?’”

And now they’re at the end—of performing anyway. That’s what Confessions is about. It’s an epilogue to three very long careers as performers. Croker says the way it developed was they brought in a dramaturge to interview them and help identify a direction for the final show.
He told them the most interesting part of their story wasn’t necessarily all the places they’ve travelled, or the fact they’ve created 30 touring shows, or that they had high-powered executives tumbling through the halls of the Banff Centre. It was the emotional journey each of them had been on. The questions they’d had for themselves about what success looked like, the guilt they felt at leaving their children to go on the road at various points, the relationships they worried they were sacrificing for their careers.
“What we wanted to do was find universal truths,” says Croker. “Because who really cares if we’re dancing or not? It’s that old question of ‘if a tree falls in the forest and hits a mime, does anyone care?’”
Croker says he thinks one of the reasons Motus O is able to achieve that is the same reason it has a reputation as a company that makes dance accessible to all audiences.
Storytelling is at the heart of the company’s performances, he says. And they incorporate their experience with street theatre to bring immediacy and audience involvement to their performances.
“Our feeling is the audience is part of the experience. What can happen with high-brow arts sometimes is that the audience gets excluded from that experience,” Croker says. “What we observed when we were going to shows is what I call arts masturbation. I’m watching performers get off on themselves and I’d much rather be involved with them.”
If people come to the show having no idea who Motus O is or what the story’s about, Motus O tells them, he says. There’s no guessing. Nothing is so buried in itself that audiences will walk away wondering what they just watched, or what it was about.
For Motus O, it’s about making movement relatable enough to draw people out and make them feel involved.
Tickets are $20 for adults or $15 for seniors/students and can be purchased at