Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s much anticipated inter-disciplinary performance work honoring Onkwehón:we woman power is making its World Premiere at Toronto Harboufront Centre’s Next Steps Dance Series on Thursday, April 28 and running through until Sunday, May 1. KDT’s Artistic Director Santee Smith leads a creative and diverse team of internationally acclaimed Indigenous women in the arts in Re-Quickening, a production that goes beyond a typical contemporary dance piece. Incorporating elements of film, dance, theatre, music and performance art, Re-Quickening is a journey through the creative process and an exploration of what it means to be an Indigenous woman today.
Showings of Re-Quickening will be followed by artist talks by live-performance artists Santee Smith, Monique Mojica and Marina Acevedo, and will feature one of the show’s artistic contributors each night. Re-Quickening’s video projection designer and rehearsal director, Louise Potiki-Bryant will speak with audiences on April 28, with Juno award-winning musician Cris Derksen on April 29, and creative consultant, writer and activist Leanne Simpson on April 30.
“This is more interdisciplinary. It has all these elements to the work. It’s very abstracted and really multi-layered,” said Santee of Re-Quickening in comparison to some of her other works. “That’s the interesting part for us as the artists is that there’s so many layers of meaning, layers of performance quality that we bring in from speaking and then being embodied and then being characters and accessing emotion and all that so every scene has about 3 or 4 different meanings to it.”
One major element to Re-Quickening’s multi-disciplinary foundation is the video projection design provided by Louise Potiki-Bryant. Shot in New Zealand over a few weeks this past winter, Louise’s stunning footage of Santee and Maori dancers acknowledging the inter-connectedness between cultures while also honoring their power as Indigenous women will add support to what’s happening onstage during the live performance.
“We’re finding things and we’re moving through our own imagery and our storyline. It’s not one of those things that’s like ‘Okay, it’s show time and voila!’ It’s still moving through and recovering,” said Santee of the show’s rehearsals leading up to the World Premiere. “That’s what makes it risky for us as artist because we’re sort of putting ourselves out there, but also it’s the vibe and what the energy of the work is all about, trying to bring all these fractures into wholeness and how do you do that? So there’s a lot of questioning. We’re still developing the language of the piece and what each gesture means. It’s building all those dynamic layers and then some of those layers change.”
With so much room for diversity in meaning, contributions and artistic disciplines, Santee has discovered through rehearsals that Re-Quickening has become a production more about the creative process itself than the final product, with the live performances being a part of that process of discovery.
“As an artist you kind of go through this big process of questioning everything and then hoping that everything lands in it’s place so that we can get to the performance of it,” said Santee. Although the production leading up to the live shows have changed and evolved throughout rehearsals and in the music and video edits, Santee’s team of passionate collaborators have made it easier to navigate through the production’s growth, offering support to one another and keeping things grounded.
“Every single day in rehearsals working with these ladies has been just such hard work, but such good work because we’re working on everything having to do with women’s issues. Residential schools, moving forward and finding our way through some of the issues about missing and murdered Indigenous women, but also finding the strength and connection to the earth and our connection to life cycle and all of that. Just in our conversations in rehearsal has been so amazing that the process is really the performance. Everybody’s 100% into the work and supporting each other and making discoveries together and making the trajectory of why are we doing this, and having conversations about that and the state we find ourselves as Indigenous women.”
Tickets for Re-Quickening are $38 and can be purchased at the Harbourfront Centre Box Office and online at www.harbourfront centre.com. Visit kahawidance.org for more information.