Two transformations; two dramatically different outcomes. This weekend, Native Earth Performing Arts and DanceWorks CoWorks invite us to an evening of Indigenous dance that explores a community’s influence on youth development. Featuring original works with distinctly different styles by Montreal-based Lara Kramer (Ojibwa/Cree) and Vancouver’s Gitxan-rooted Dancers of Damelahamid, the Indigenous Dance Double Bill runs until Saturday April 23rd in Native Earth’s Aki Studio.
The evening opens with an exploration of a traditional Pacific Northwest upbringing in the Gitxsan nation. Dancers of Damelahamid’s signature piece Luu hlotitxw: Spirit Transforming, which tells the story of a young Indigenous man who passes through trials and emerges transformed thanks to the assistance of the always-present ancestors.
The piece is choreographed by Margaret Grenier, in collaboration with Nigel Grenier and the Dancers of Damelahamid, Spirit Transforming weaves traditional Gitxan masked dance and contemporary practices with modern technology to tell a story of re-birth. This transformative includes animation and multimedia tools to elaborate regalia and intricately-carved masks to lead us on a universal spiritual voyage.
The evening continues with the very personal NGS (Native Girl Syndrome), an original work by Ojibwa/Cree dancer and choreographer Lara Kramer. In NGS, street culture is enacted in a raw theatrical performance by Karina Iraola and Angie Cheng; both of whom were instrumental in developing the piece. Inspired by the experience of Kramer’s grandmother who migrated from a remote First Nations community into an unfamiliar urban environment as a young woman, this work explores the effects of cultural disorientation, assimilation, and the self-destructive behavior she endured.
Developing NGS with Iraola and Cheng pushed Kramer to go beyond the story of her grandmother, and explore the far-reaching impact of colonialism and cultural displacement. In contrast, the traditional movement, performed by dancers of Gitxsan and Cree decent in button blankets and cedar and alder masks, demonstrates the powerful transformation one can experience in the hands of a centuries-old culture from the Pacific Northwest coast of Canada.
By contrasting these two pieces in one evening, audiences can hopefully understand the potentially drastic and different outcomes for Indigenous youth in Canada. For more details about this Indigenous Dance Double Bill, to purchase tickets, and schedule information, visit Native Earth’s website.