Kaha:wi Dance Theatre brings the Indigenous world together

TORONTO — Kaha:wi Dance Theatre is launching its new international Indigenous Performing Arts Festival, Living Ritual, July 25 to 27 at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre on the harbour front in Toronto.

The event is produced by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (pronounced Ga-HA-Wee), one of Canada’s leading performing arts companies. The festival creates space for Indigenous artists, arts and culture enthusiasts, and both local and global delegates from across Turtle Island (Canada, United States), Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia to gather, network, perform, celebrate, promote and dialogue about Indigenous artistic practice.

The vision for the project is that of Dora Mavor Moore Award and recent REVEAL Indigenous Arts Award-winning Artistic Director Santee Smith, and Artistic Producer, Curator and Festival Executive Producer Cynthia Lickers-Sage.

“Living Ritual carves out space for artists and audiences to be creative, share and connect, passing on knowledge in the most exciting and transformative ways,” says Smith, who earlier this year took her first-ever trip to Nunavut, while touring her critically-acclaimed NeoIndigenA performance piece across the United States, northwestern Canada and New Zealand.

“It’s all about placing artists at the centre, from which springs forth conversation, understanding and connection. This festival also speaks to the power of place (Tkaronto) and kinship relations to the land and people. If someone wants to understand more about the Indigenous experience, Living Ritual offers some insight,” says Smith.

Privileging Indigenous performance, the festival presents a wide array of works through powerful contemporary and experimental works, crafted from Indigenous methodology, voice and body, uniting past, present and future dance and theatre practices.

“I see this as a way to connect with Indigenous artists from around the world,” says Smith. “It’s a way to share our commonality and our differences using our own way of telling our own stories, on a global platform.”

Smith’s daughter Semiah, a member of the Two Row Times newspaper design team, often works behind the scenes with event organizing, graphic design and many other necessary back stage duties, but this time, she will be also a part of the event herself. Like her mother, Semiah is multi-gifted and will perform with her traditional singing group during the opening ceremonies.

The festival opens up with an Onkwehon:we Edge of the Woods Welcome Ceremony as part of its daytime programming which includes: Provocation Addresses, panel discussions, Embodied Sharing (Master Classes) and Performative Lectures. The program then shifts in the evening to include one night only public performances and premieres from internationally renowned artists and companies who offer a distinct perspective on Indigenous performance including: the pioneering Spiderwoman Theater (New York, USA) presenting Aanmitaagzi‘s “Material Witness”, Qaggiavuut Nunavut Performing Arts’ (Nunavut, Canada) new work “Kiviuq Returns” (which recently world premiered at the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene – Living Ritual will be the lone Toronto stop of their tour); the world premiere of “[MIS]CONCEIVE” by Thomas E.S. Kelly (Queensland & New South Wales, Australia); the critically-acclaimed “We Wait in the Darkness” by Rosy Simas Dance (Minnesota, USA) and Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s own “NeoIndigenA” by Artistic Director Santee Smith among others.

At a time when many colonizing structures are openly being called into question, Living Ritual also offers an honest public forum to dialogue on decolonial processes and push button issues, discuss global issues in Indigenous performance, and engage in professional development, while promoting artistic cross-pollination and inter-cultural collaborations.

Living Ritual takes place on the ancestral territory of the Onkwehon:we, Anishaanbe and Huron-Wendat and acknowledges the spirits of the ancestors, animals and the land in the Dish with One Spoon Treaty lands and open a space to honour our interconnectivity and interdependence.

Living Ritual gratefully acknowledges the sponsorship of the Ontario 150, Harbourfront Centre, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, KM Hunter Foundation, and New Chapter Fund by the Canada Council for the Arts. Living Ritual is one of 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter initiative. With this $35 million initiative, the council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

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