BRANTFORD – A performance full of power and expression took to the Woodland Cultural Centre on Saturday, August 12, in what is being deemed as an offering on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute.
Contemporary and traditionally influenced dancers from Six Nations, Winnipeg, New Zealand, and Australia offered a beautiful physical performance that culminated into an expressive and spiritual response to being on residential school grounds after two weeks of working together in the 2017 Creation Lab.
“We titled it Talking Earth,” said Santee Smith, who headed the Creation Lab with the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.
Smith explained that the name of her father’s pottery shop, Talking Earth Pottery, influenced the title of the performance but there is a deeper meaning that lies within the land.
“We wanted to say something about voices. We wanted to recognize the buried voices or the voices that are here not only from survivors past and present from our community, not only that, but the trees. The trees that witnessed so much here, the land, the buildings; so that kind of came into the idea of sharing those voices that might have been buried and need to be given the space to find their power and strength again.”
The performance itself allowed the dancers to separately perform in different areas of the grounds and the audience seemed to enjoy the flow. Smith explained that they designed the presentation this way on purpose.
“Each of us came together and we created a group presentation, a group performance, so we were united together but we were also individual. So everybody brought their creative process and what they wanted to offer to the performance, and we did it like a performance installation so that audiences could go from different areas.”
“I think it was important that we started the performance at the end of the driveway and had that silent walk up to the building, and then everything from that was an activation of the space.”
One of the visiting dancers from New Zealand, Taane Mete, explained that the two weeks spent working on the collective performance created a bond with the other dancers like “family”.
“I wasn’t aware, travelling from New Zealand to here, just how involved it would be in terms of the depth of knowledge that was gathered to create the work,” said Mete. “I understood that we were all from different trainings, different facilities, different opportunities, and coming here really helped to sync first of all with culture, and crossing our cultures and seeing the commonalities of what we experienced growing up, what our families experienced growing up.”
“But being here at the Woodland Cultural Centre, gave it grounding because our focus became more towards the residential house and gathering stories about the times that different people had in the house and the relationship that was shared by them and others gave us an understanding of how we could create a work of healing and how we could create a work that found common ground and we were able to activate the space to create positivity, to create awareness, to create a bond and a family.”
Other visiting dancers included Beez Ngarino Te Waati from New Zealand, Taree Sansbury from Australia and Thomas E. S. Kelly from Australia as well as featuring dancers Semiah Smith, Jesse Dell, Benay Elijah, Julianne Blackbird and several others.
The performance was well received by all in attendance, as the powerful forms, songs and movements of the dancers seemed to show more commonalities than differences.