British Columbia’s Dancers of Damelahamid ventures to the National Arts Centre September 26th through 28th with their program Mînowin. The Indigenous dance company celebrates storytelling, dance, and tradition with a contemporary refiguring.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Margaret Grenier, Executive and Artistic Director of the company, and Andrew Grenier, Creative Producer, ahead of their show.
The company works to incorporate both traditional and contemporary aspects of dance. Margaret Grenier said, “our company is based out of Vancouver. The work that we do has a few different aspects to it. We develop and create dance productions. A very strong aspect of our work is focused on youth engagement and intergenerational practices.”
She also said that “narrative or story is a really foundational element to our dance form—through movement and narration. Through all of the regalia and visual design; the layering and the songs. When we create a piece we are working concurrently in all of those areas. Projection and visual design, as well. There is a lot of visual design in all of the pieces. We have graphic design on all of the regalia, our dance floor, and our backdrop.”
“All of these different elements are intended to support the story telling. The title of the dance piece [Mînowin] translates to clarifying direction or finding ourselves in the direction we are going,” said Margaret.
Margaret emphasized that there is incredible meaning in what they do and the stories they tell. She said, “when we looked at the oldest stories, we saw that there seems to be this place we come to as people—we come to great loss, imbalance. We come to disconnection. In all of those moments there is something beautiful that reemerges.
“There is something very beautiful in the way that we have found our way forward. Even if you look back, they also come from very specific places in our history where there was great imbalance. In the history our ancestors face, the story also takes us in a way that moves forward.”
“We want people to be challenged with their preconceived notion of Indigenous identity” —Andrew Grenier
There was an incredible amount of passion present in our discussion. “We want people to be challenged with their preconceived notion of Indigenous identity. Indigenous people bring different identities. Oftentimes people see Indigenous people in this dichotomy—traditional or contemporary. With the piece, we have overt things where we mix contemporary clothing with traditional regalia,” said Andrew Grenier.
The show is an artful combination of dance and story, with keen attention paid to its visual aspects. “We worked with interactive technologies and media to connect the dancers movement. A dance floor was created by Andrew Grenier. On that dance floor we have projected design work. The dancers are motion tracked, so that the audience can see that connection. This is something tangible I think the audiences can experience,” described Margaret.
“We need to remember that we are coming in with something personal to share. We are coming in with our loved stories and our message we want to share. The best way to receive that is to simply maintain our open heart” —Margaret Grenier
Margaret gave me some beautiful advice for new spectators of dance. She said, “I think that my advice, not just specific to dance, is to really approach it with an open heart, to really allow the artist to represent themselves. It is true, as people, we bring into a space what we know or what our expectations are. We need to remember that we are coming in with something personal to share. We are coming in with our loved stories and our message we want to share. The best way to receive that is to simply maintain our open heart.”
“We feel really blessed to be part of this seasonal launch of Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre and how important it is to have the space and time dedicated to Indigenous art. I think it’s something there is a great need for,” said Margaret.
With that, don’t miss this performance!
Dancers of Damelahamid’s Mînowin takes the stage at the National Arts Centre September 26th through 28th. Tickets are available online for $41. Live Rush tickets (details) will be available on the day of this performance.