This summer, Emma and Ella are both determined to die first.

The Skeleton Dance is a creative movement show for all ages about death. It is a highly physical, energetic, and light-hearted play with elements of clown and puppetry. It is created and performed by Emma James (they/she) and Ella MacDonald (she/her). It runs approximately 40 minutes, invites structured audience participation, and is always followed by a meet-and-greet or talk back. The show is absolutely free to attend due to the generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

In The Skeleton Dance, two young children process the news that their Great Uncle Trout has suddenly passed away. They consider the implications of this in an entertaining, irreverent way, where the audience is privy to their many whimsical theories about death.

Through the hardship of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Emma & Ella believe that everyone has grieved something, be it a loved one, important events, or normalcy. The goal of The Skeleton Dance is to provoke thought about the ways in which we respond to hardship and comfort one another.

Photos by Stoo Metz


THE SKELETON DANCE is an all-ages show that talks about death. YAY! If talking about death and dying is hard for you, that’s okay! These things can be hard to talk about. We invite you to participate at your own discretion. That could look like taking deep breaths, stepping away for a minute, or even deciding that this show isn’t for you. That’s okay, too!

Click here to read about supporting a young person through grief and loss, and click here to read about how to process and find support if you’re grieving.

Emma James

Emma James (she/they) is an emerging queer theatre and movement artist from St. Stephen, N.B, based in Halifax, NS. They received their BA (Hons.) in Acting with a Certificate in Dance & Movement from Dalhousie University in 2021. Recent credits include THE SKELETON DANCE (Halifax Fringe, 2021), Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart (FSPA) Assistant Director, La Calandra (FSPA), and Director/Producer, Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche (Dalhousie Theatre Society). Awards include the AFBS / Ferne Downey Scholarship in Acting (ACTRA Fraternal Benefits Society, 2020-21) and the Stephen Graham Bird Award (Theatre New Brunswick, 2019). CURRENT: Caroline Campbell, Somebody To Love (Grafton Street Dinner Theatre, 2022).

Photo by James Maclean (@jamesarthurmaclean)

Ella MacDonald

Ella MacDonald (she/her) is an emerging theatre artist from K’jipuktuk/Halifax with special skills in creative movement, puppetry, and music performance. She received her BA (Hons.) in Acting with a Certificate in Dance & Movement from Dalhousie University in 2021. In 2019 she completed the Animotion Puppetry Intensive at Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. She is the recipient of the 2020 Hnatyshyn Developing Artist Grant in English Theatre. In 2020 she also received the David and Andrew Stitt Memorial Prize. She is currently training to become an Intimacy Director. Select Credits: USSR (Matchstick Theatre), How the Light Lies on You (New Pants Project), Phédre: Les racines de la Rage (Inter-Arts Matrix), THE SKELETON DANCE (Halifax Fringe 2021).

Photo by Emily Jewer (@mjphotographicshfx)


Ann-Marie Kerr (she/her) - Creative Consultant

Sally Morgan (she/her) - Movement Consultant

Veronique MacKenzie (she/her) - Apprenticeship Supervisor / Mentor

THE SKELETON DANCE began development as a collage of texts and references! Check out our Living Bibliography here:


Questions? Send us an email at

This project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.


We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to our incredible supporters, including:

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The Skeleton Dance began development in 2019 as a vocal masque assignment in theatre school between emerging artists Ella MacDonald (she/her) and Emma James (they/she). Thanks to the support of their faculty and many other community partners, The Skeleton Dance is able to take on new life while it explores death in a new way.

This project is possible thanks to the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The creation, development, and presentation of The Skeleton Dance has taken place in K’jipuktuk, the ancestral and unceded land of the Mi’kmaq people.

© 2022  Ella & Emma

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