SIX NATIONS – Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s two week long creation lab is coming to an end this week and participants will be showing what they’ve learned to the public at two events — one this Wednesday at the woodland Cultural Centre and the other on Saturday at the Community Centre.
A Creation Lab is a gathering of artists from all disciplines of dance and theatre where different practices are taught to participants who have at least a basic understanding of the arts and a willingness to move and get physical. We met up with Santee Smith, artistic director for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre on the fourth day of their lab for an update, just as they were finishing up a yoga class.
“It’s been epic,” said Smith. “The group of people the instructors and I have been working with are killing it on all levels. We’ve been using our bodies and also our voices — sometimes a dancer isn’t always comfortable using their voice, but all the students are actively participating and doing a great job with what we’re asking them to do — not just the ones with theatre backgrounds.”
The instructors and students get to the community centre around 9:30 every morning and begin moving by 10 a.m. and work until 6 p.m. “It’s our fourth day today and everybody is definitely feeling the hours of hard work they’ve been putting in,” said Smith. “But it seems like everybody is really enjoying themselves and taking in all they can from what we are teaching them.”
The instructors come from mostly Western and Central Canada, but a few have also come from New Zealand to help teach the participants some traditional Maori dances — like the haka. Smith said that they learned the Ka Mate haka earlier in the week from Nancy Wijohn, a dancer and choreographer from Auckland, New Zealand.
“The haka is a traditional war cry, dance, or challenge from the Maori people of New Zealand,” said Wijohn. “It’s a very energetic, get moving kind of practice and most of the energy comes up and out through the eyes.”
Smith said that apart from their classes every day, there have been a few evening events that were open to the community where instructors and participants could show some of what they’ve learned to the crowd and the crowd was invited to participant as well.
“We had about four or five families come to the community events and we showed them several different things,” said Smith. “We started with learning some things of the Maori people — acknowledging their land, mountains, rivers, affiliations, families and then we finally got to introducing one another.”
There will be another community event held on Wednesday July 27th at the Woodland Cultural Centre that Smith said anyone is invited to attend and participate.
“You are allowed to just watch, but we definitely want to encourage group participation,” she said.
On June 30th, the last day of the lab, the group will host a closing ceremony of sorts, or a showcase of all the hard work they have been doing. Everyone is invited to attend, food and drink will be served, but guests are welcome to bring their own favourite dish to share too.
“We’re going to show the community what we’ve been learning and we really want our participants to get feedback from the audience about how they dance, and how their performances come across to an audience. It’s all about learning from one another.”
Wijohn said that the lab has been going great so far and that just by seeing how exhausted all the participants are shows their dedication to the practices. Both Wijohn and Smith agree that the one of the the best things that can come out of this lab is the relationship building and connections that the group will now share.
“We need to keep these international connections strong as we plan for future projects and labs,” said Smith. “It’s really about relationship building and keeping these links strong across all Turtle Island.”