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Grenier + Jamieson

This Thursday, Native Earth’s annual Indigenous Dance Double Bill, Niimi’iwe, returns to Aki Studio with two incredible contemporary Indigenous dance works. The first is light breaking broken, a collaboration by Cree/Gitxsan choreographer Margaret Grenier and Vancouver’s Karen Jamieson.

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Grenier, Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

For Margaret Grenier, dance is a way of life. Grenier grew up in a Cree and Gitxsan family, who worked to revitalize Indigenous dance after the Potlatch ban was lifted in the 1950s. Her family created the West Coast’s Dancers of Damelahamid, and after growing up immersed in traditional training, Grenier is now the Executive and Artistic Director.

Karen Jamieson, founder of Karen Jamieson Dance, realized dance was what she was meant to do after taking a class as an elective during her post-graduate teaching degree at Simon Fraser University. In the time since, Jamieson has become an award-winning choreographer who has toured around the world. She collaborated with Grenier’s parents on Gawa Gyani in 1991, and Jamieson and Grenier have stayed connected ever since. The two are bringing their new collaboration about language, culture, and identity to Toronto, as a part of Native Earth’s Niimi’iwe.

lbb Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

“Cultural identity and fear of other cultures are serious issues on the planet today. light breaking broken participates in a necessary and ongoing conversation that seeks to move forward while acknowledging our past,” says Jamieson. “While Gawa Gyani was groundbreaking in many ways, it was created with two dance traditions existing side by side. light breaking broken builds upon this relationship and extends into a new territory with the beginnings of a hybrid language drawing from both dance traditions.”

The piece began in 2012 when Grenier was invited into the research process for a solo Jamieson was working on.  “Our ‘danced conversation’ focused on the juxtaposition of our radically different dance traditions, different perspectives, and a dialogue on post-colonial dance,” describes Jamieson. “Our explorations resulted in a work with very strong potential so we committed to developing it further.”

lbb Grenier; Photo by Chris Randle

Grenier; Photo by Chris Randle

That is exactly what they did. Over the past few years, Grenier and Jamieson workshopped the piece, having long conversations, identifying key issues, questions, and contradictions, and then improvising movement inspired by their differing dance traditions. “We began to look at the concept of broken as a paradox with both a positive, as in breaking through, and a negative, as in broken spirit, says Grenier. “This led to the foundation of the current work.”

“For myself it has been a significant learning experience in understanding creative processes outside of those informed by Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies,” says Grenier. “I feel as if the whole process has been both humbling and also empowering as it has further clarified my own practice and deepened my internal foundation in the coastal form.”

lbb Grenier, Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

Grenier, Jamieson; Photo by Chris Randle

Like most great work, there is also a team of collaborators behind light breaking broken, including Margaret Harris (Elder Advisor), Josh Hite (Video Artist), John Korsrud (Composer), DD Kugler (Dramaturg), Betsy Lomax (Elder Language Carrier), and James Proudfoot (Lighting Designer). Jamieson describes the collaboration with Korsrud , Hite, Proudfoot and Kugler as open, generous and creative, and highlights Grenier’s mother Margaret Harris as a “mentor, teacher and respected Elder whose wisdom has guided me for many years.” Lomax’s understanding of language and culture was also vital to the creation process. “We have so few fluent speakers, says Grenier. “It is always vital to bring this knowledge into the process.”

light breaking broken had its world premiere last week at Vancouver’s International Dance Festival, and this week it will have its Toronto premiere with Native Earth, a natural fit for this work. “Indigenous artists need a safe space to open our hearts and share our practices,” says Grenier. “Native Earth carries the medicine of all the Indigenous artists who have done this.”

light breaking broken runs March 30 – April 1 at 7:00 pm in Aki Studio, part of Niimi’iwe: Indigenous Dance Double Bill.

Quick Facts About Grenier + Jamieson

What advice would you give to someone
who wants to do what you do?
Margaret: Have faith that you are always
guided by those who have come before you.

Karen: You have to love it.

What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Karen: Relevance.

Where is your favorite place to be?
Margaret: Home, on the Skeena River,
which is the Ksan and Damelahamid.

Karen: Up the coast of British Columbia
to a remote bay with no roads or electricity.

Who is one of your heroes?
Margaret: My grandmother,
who was strong and dedicated and kind.

Feature photo by Chris Randle

Ryan IMG_5453 hi res - website banner

Native Earth Performing Arts announces the departure of Artistic Director

After three seasons, Ryan Cunningham is leaving Native Earth Performing Arts to pursue personal artistic projects, starting with his debut at Shaw Festival this summer.

In his time as Artistic Director, Cunningham strengthened Native Earth’s position as Canada’s leading Indigenous performing arts company with impactful programming and strategic partnerships. Most notably, these efforts resulted in a nine-city nation-wide tour of Native Earth’s award-winning production of Huff by Cliff Cardinal. Cunningham’s time in New Zealand and Australia also reinforced Native Earth’s longstanding international partnerships, leading to presentations of Huff around the globe.

Since he joined the company in 2014, Cunningham has been instrumental in reimagining Native Earth’s annual development festival, Weesageechak Begins to Dance, placing a focus on the inclusion of Indigenous dance and select presentations of work by legendary Indigenous artists, such as SpiderWoman Theater’s Gloria Miguel. Cunningham’s determination to bring Indigenous dance into a prominent position within Native Earth’s season birthed the now annual Indigenous Dance Double Bill, Niimi’iwe.

“During Ryan’s term as Artistic Director, Native Earth has developed new partnerships across Canada and internationally, as well as broadening the range of work we produce and present,” says Ashley Stacey, President of the Board of Directors. “We value the contribution he has made to the company and wish him well in his future artistic work.”

Stacey points out that this shift in leadership comes at the brink of Native Earth’s 35th season, creating an opportunity for a new visionary to lead the company into this milestone season.   “It is an exciting time for Indigenous performing arts in Canada, and this change will offer another Indigenous leader a chance to make their mark – not only at Native Earth, but in an ever shifting artistic landscape.”

As Native Earth closes out their current season, Cunningham prepares for his upcoming performances with Tafelmusik and Shaw Festival.

A Search Committee to find a successor will be chaired by Ashley Stacey of the Native Earth Performing Arts Board of Directors.

Native Earth Seeks Applications for New Artistic Director


Métis Mutt

Written & Performed by Sheldon Elter

Preview January 25
January 26 – February 5



Sterling Award Winner for
New Work and Performance

Métis Mutt is a comedic, heartbreaking and unpredictable performance piece that recounts the journey of a young Métis man finding his way out of a destructive cycle.

In a performance the Edmonton Journal calls “intelligent and consistently inventive,” Elter expertly switches between storytelling, stand-up comedy, music and multi-character vignettes to expose the impact of family dysfunction, internalized racism and spiritual growth.

Directed by Ron Jenkins
Set & Lighting Design by Tessa Stamp
Projection Design by T. Erin Gruber
Sound Design by Aaron Macri
Stage Management by Tessa Stamp

This production has been funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Original production co-created with Kenneth Brown.

5-stars“Elter’s remarkable talent is wide-ranging” – See Magazine

5-stars“a role that is physically demanding and technically flawless” – VUE Weekly

4-5-stars“intelligent and consistently inventive” – Edmonton Journal

Running time is approximately 90 minutes
There is no intermission.

Trigger Warnings:
This play contains scenes of domestic violence,
substance abuse,  and offensive language.


Tickets $15-$25, available online.
Wednesday January 25 and Tuesday January 31st door tickets are pay-what-you-can. Advance tickets are regular price.
Purchases made online or by telephone are by credit card only.
At the door payments accepted by cash, debit, VISA and Mastercard.
For information on group rates, call the box office at 416-531-1402.

Box Office Telephone: 416-531-1402
Email: boxoffice[at]

More information on ticket pick-up here.

BW Headshot - Sheldon Elter sq

Sheldon is an award-winning Métis actor, writer, stand-up comic, musician and director originally from Northern Alberta. As a stand-up comic, he has emceed and been host at both Breaker’s, and Dave’s Comedy Saloon, and has toured Western Canada twice as the opening comedy act for hypnotist, Marc Savard. Sheldon was also a Top 14 Finalist on Canadian Idol in 2006. In 2002 Elter and his work Métis Mutt won two Sterling Awards for Best Actor and Best New Work. More About Sheldon

Photos by Ryan Parker

Niimiiwe Website Banner



March 30 – April 1, 2017
Aki Studio
7 PM & 9 PM


light breaking broken
a creative collaboration by
Margaret Grenier and Karen Jamieson

Peeling back the layers of the unknown, and forging a path to understanding, light breaking broken (formerly Light Breaking Through BROKEN) is the personal journey of two artists reconnecting with language, culture, and identity. With different cultural perspectives and individual histories, Grenier and Jamieson use their distinct dance styles to push each other’s boundaries and find an opening to the light. Read More

the ndn way 2the NDN way
a Brian Solomon Electric Moose production

Interpreted by Brian Solomon and Mariana Medellín-Meinke

In 1974, a budding artist created her first CBC documentary after finding inspiration in the synthesis of the Cree world views by Ron Evans. Inspired by the same original recording of the Cree storyteller, Solomon’s the NDN way re-imagines, remixes and interprets these philosophies about medicine teachings, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges and death in a highly theatrical, visual art-warp. Read More



A DanceWorks CoWorks Series Event


Tenille Campbell & Andréa Ledding: “through laughter and song”

What started off as a Facebook challenge for Dene/Métis author and photographer Tenille Campbell, has now transformed into the full length play Fancydance: The Musical. Written with Métis poet, writer and Facebook challenger Andréa Ledding, the musical will have a premiere staged reading at the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival on Friday, November 18th.

Campbell, who is currently in her third year of her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan (Aboriginal Storytelling and Literature), is an emerging playwright, and first time Weesaeechak artist, who is embarking on that journey with Fancydance.

“I’ve always secretly wanted my life to have people that burst into song and dance, and now I get to create that” – Campbell

“As a new playwright… incorporating music and dance into this play was a reflection of storytelling – epic adventures, the blur between memory and reality, chance happenings that seem like fate,” explains Campbell. Plus, “I’ve always secretly wanted my life to have people that burst into song and dance, and now I get to create that.”

It’s a different story for 2013 Lieutenant Governor Arts Award nominee Andréa Ledding: Fancydance marks a return to Weesageechak for this artist, who has written for the stage, print media and has had her poems published in anthologies. She previously developed her play Dominion in the festival, an experience that left Ledding impressed. “Native Earth is an amazing community of artists and creators, and we really look forward to tapping into that community.”

After hearing about her co-writer’s experience, Campbell took the leap and applied. “Andréa spoke about the festival as a very safe space to learn from actors and directors, and people who know the business and believe in community – not competition – and I loved that.”

The pair came together to write in a very modern way. “I was watching a bunch of musicals and comedies one night while avoiding school readings, and noticed the lack of Indigenous presence in most, if not all, these movies that I love,” Campbell remembers. “I went to Facebook to bemoan this.”

“I posted below ‘Let’s write one! Pow-Wow the Musical!,'” adds Ledding. “We kept talking about it and saying we needed to do it. And eventually we started working on it every Tuesday morning in my kitchen.”

“We want to celebrate Indigeneity and identity and Indigenous women” – Ledding

The result: Fancydance: The Musical, which follows Devon, a young Indigenous woman and her journey of identity while torn between two love interests. “We want to celebrate Indigeneity and identity and Indigenous women, and, yes, Indigenous men too,” says Ledding.

Inspired by the catchy music of her favourite musicals, Tenille wants to create a musical that can live outside the theatre. “I hope Fancydance makes people laugh, or hum a song as they walk out of the theatre, or phone up their friends saying ‘you won’t believe what I just saw,'” she explains. “I want this piece to create community and discussion through laughter and song.”

See Campbell and Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical on Friday, November 18th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with readings of works by Cheyenne Scott and Denneh’Cho Thompson.

Something More from Campbell & Ledding

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
TC: Our very existence is political so when we create, our stories reflect our survival and triumphs, and these stories go hand in hand with confronting the political aspects that we confront everyday.

AL: It’s a shortcut you can trust!

What superpower would you like to have?
TC: I would like to be able to teleport.
I would visit the world without visiting all the airports.

AL: I wish I could magically record my thoughts and ideas as scripts and stories without all that interface in the way.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
TC: No Hickies. Ha!
The best advice I’ve been given was to stay humble.

AL: Write about what matters to you. And don’t give up.

What are you craving right now?
TC: Grande peppermint mocha, 1/2 sweet, extra shot
– it’s Christmas in a cup.

AL: Coffee and a good book.

What is coming up next for you?
TC: I’m hoping to finish some work on my schooling, work on edits for a poetry collection, and write the plot outline to a novel I’ve been thinking about.

AL: I’m going to WBTD! And then Madrid! And I have a play being produced in Spring 2017 at Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre!

To me, art is:
TC: Essential.

AL: That which speaks to the heart, the spirit, the psyche, and the soul, as well as the mind.

Campbell & Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical
Friday, November 18th @ 7:30pm


Billy McPherson: “a true story of identity”

Our annual festival of Indigenous works aims to provide a platform to unite Indigenous voices from around the world. Weesageechak Begins to Dance exists to strengthen the Indigenous presence in the arts community, and in addition to the Canadian voice, this year’s festival includes work from the USA and Australia.

Billy McPherson in rehearsals at Weesageechak

Making his  debut at Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival is Kamillaroi filmmaker, actor and writer Billy McPherson with his play Cuz, directed by Frederick Copperwaite of Australia’s Moogahlin Performing Arts.

Wishing to expose the realities of the Australian Indigenous experience, McPherson’s Cuz is an autobiographical play that tackles themes of identity and shadeism.

“This is a true story of identity, of my dear cousin and myself over 45 years growing up from little kids (gunnadoos) to the present,” explains McPherson. “I wanted to share… what it is like for Aboriginal people in Australia to have to deal with not being identified as an Aboriginal person, because of my cousin’s fair skin complexion.”

Before now, McPherson worked primarily as a filmmaker – his film Nalingu was screened at Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival -and Cuz marks McPherson’s first attempt at playwriting.

Driven to create work that can be shared with First Nations people around the world, McPherson describes Cuz as a play “about identity and being proud – not giving up hope as an Aboriginal, and believing in yourself regardless of the struggles we encounter everyday in our lives.”


L-R: Billy McPherson, Joelle Peters, Cliff Cardinal, Frederick Copperwaite, Ryan Cunningham in rehearsals for Cuz

Although this will be McPherson’s first time visiting Canada, he shares Native Earth’s vision behind the festival – to further the Indigenous voice on the world stage.

“We are the original storytellers,” says McPherson, and Indigenous theatre and dance is “to record our history and to tell our stories to the wider audiences. I am now very thankful to Native Earth and Ryan Cunningham for inviting Cuz for reading at Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival.”

McPherson’s Cuz will be presented on Wednesday November 16th at 7:30 pm in the Aki Studio, with performances by Cliff Cardinal, Joelle Peters, and Native Earth’s Artistic Director Ryan Cunningham.

Something more from Billy McPherson

What piece are you looking forward
to seeing at Weesageechak 29?

It’s my first time to Canada so definitely meeting
and greeting First Nations art and people.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
I was inspired by many great Aboriginal artists and creators from my early rise in the theatre world back in 1988, especially from a original pioneer with Aunty Oogeroo Noonuccul nee (Kath Walker).
She was instrumental to myself with telling me in believing in myself, to be proud of who I am and to record our history to pass onto the next generation. Also Kevin Smith a famous Aboriginal actor from Sydney, New South Wales, who had taken me under his wings to guide and assist me with my craft. I am forever thankful to these two dear friends and peers. Both are now in the dreamtime.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
Art is politics and politics is arts, so I have many questions needing answering. But in meantime, I will continue to tell our Indigenous stories from Australia.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Record your black history and never give up.
Learning everyday in my life.
Also to take it as it comes everyday.

What superpower would you like to have? Why?
I would like to have a magic boomerang… and be the hero for our Indigenous people so that every time the world is in crisis I can throw my boomerang and it freezes other people around the world in time… Just imagine turning back time and…  turning away the Captain Cook invasion in Australia in 1770.

What is your favourite pastime?
Boxing training and sparring sessions with mates I enjoy,
and going to the theatre and listening to Indigenous music.

What are you craving right now?
I’m nervous and excited and craving for actors reading my play Cuz.  Also, meeting new friends from Canada and from around the world. (Oh and a can of lemonade too…)

What is coming up next for you?
I’m in rehearsals for a new play, Home Country, with
Urban Theatre Projects as part of the Sydney Festival
program that opens in January 2017.

To me, art is:
Art is intimating life and telling our stories.

See Billy McPherson’s Cuz on
Wednesday, November 16th @ 7:30pm


Dean Gabourie: “the voices that will save our society.”

Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 has opened and each night we will continue to share new work by incredibly talented Indigenous creators. Thursday night we welcome a line-up of playwrights with work in very early stages, including work by director, teacher, actor, writer and Founding Artistic Director of the award-winning ACME Theatre Co., Dean Gabourie.

Gabourie has been creating provocative theatre in Canada and abroad for over twenty-five years. Graduate of Ryerson Theatre School, and past Assistant / Associate Artistic Director at the Stratford Festival, this Métis theatre practitioner makes his debut in the Weesageechak festival with Wounded Heart Stampede.


The Sun Tree in Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede. 1950.

A play in its earliest stages, Wounded Heart Stampede is centered on a man who wakes up, still drunk, under the Sun Tree in Indian Village at the Calgary Stampede. Gabourie describes the play as “a journey taken by many of mixed blood, a story of self-mockery, self-indulgence and self-discovery.”

Gabourie was inspired to create the piece on his journey to Calgary, Alberta for the One Yellow Rabbit Summer Lab in 2005. But, at the time, that is where it ended. “I purchased the props, outlined the story arc and almost immediately stopped, ” he explained. “I wrote and performed an entirely different piece.”

Over a decade later, he is ready to return to the play, and for Gabourie there is no question that Native Earth’s Weesageechak festival is the place for that development. “For me, it was the only place I felt I could share this piece, otherwise it would have never seen the light of day.”

Though this marks Gabourie’s first time presenting work in the Weesageechak festival, he has been deeply involved with Native Earth Performing Arts in the past. Gabourie believes in the need to make space for Indigenous performing arts, and asserts that “these are the voices that will save our society.”

See Dean Gabourie’s Wounded Heart Stampede on Thursday, November 10th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with readings of works by Shandra Spears Bombay, Josh Languedoc and Craig Lauzon.

Some More from Dean Gabourie

What are you looking forward to seeing at Weesageechak 29?
Brad Fraser’s Ménage à Trois.
I adore and respect his work.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
August Schellenberg and his creative courage and ability
to achieve at anything he attempted.

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
Courage, to have the mental and physical strength to overcome fears.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
Everything is political, on some level… address away.

What superpower would you like to have?
Invisibility, the ability to disappear and reappear would be so useful on so many levels.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Your words and opinions are not worth hurting another’s feelings.

What is your favourite pastime?

What is your most memorable performance?
A one-man Medea at Middlesex University.

What are you craving right now?

What is coming up next for you?
Directing Hamlet for Shakespeare in Detroit

To me, art is:
To inform and delight.

See Dean Gabourie’s Wounded Heart Stampede on
Thursday, November 10th @ 7:30pm


Donna-Michelle St. Bernard: “hungry for the stories”

The creators developing work through Weesageechak Begins to Dance 29 are not alone. By their side throughout the development process are trusted dramaturgs, there to guide and challenge the creator as they push the work to new places.  We have a great number of respected dramaturgs participating in the festival this year, including the revered Donna-Michelle St. Bernard.

Native Earth

Snapshot from Native Earth 2007. Clockwise from top: Catherine Hernandez, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Yvette Nolan, Erika Iserhoff

Currently the Playwright-in-Residence at lemonTree creations and Emcee-in-Residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard previously spent eight years as General Manager for Native Earth Performing Arts.  During this time, St. Bernard helped hundreds of Indigenous artists to develop their work, and she returns to do more of the same as dramaturg for Anishnabeg playwright Craig Lauzon.

Two-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award, St. Bernard credits her time working alongside past Native Earth Artistic Director Yvette Nolan as having shaped her personal and professional ethic. “Her insistence that the work always comes first, that it never ends, that it’s worth it,” explains St. Bernard. “Her ability to acknowledge ‘exit wounds’ without ceasing forward movement. Tireless.”

Group by Craig Lauzon

L-R: Chelsea Rose Tucker, Craig Lauzon, Jesse Nobess, DM St. Bernard, Cheri Maracle, Jeremy Proulx, Samantha Brown

St. Bernard is working with Craig Lauzon on Group, a series of monologues Lauzon is developing into a full-length play. She returns to the festival to satiate her appetite for performance that aligns with her values.

“I am hungry for the stories of the place where I am,” she says. “Indigenous performance is one of the few places where I see my values reinforced, challenged and clarified onstage.”

Finally, when asked why Indigenous theatre and dance is important to her, St. Bernard responded, “Because I have a strong preference for things that are amazing.”

See Craig Lauzon’s Group, with dramaturgy by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard on Thursday November 10 at 7:30pm.

Something More from Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

What are you looking forward to seeing at Weesageechak 29?
The 2-Spirit Cabaret!!

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
The traditional teaching I most identify with artistically is Humility, because it is hard. I live in the struggle to strike a balance, to shine out at full wattage without overshadowing equally worthy peers and collaborators, to correct course when necessary.

What superpower would you like to have?
I’m good, thanks.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Try your best, even if no one is watching.

What are your thoughts on addressing
political topics through Indigenous art?
To choose not to address political topics directly does not prevent one’s worldview from informing every choice.
So good luck with that.

What is your most memorable performance?
Channeling Live for Sulong Theatre’s Operation Lifeboat,
where I participated from 3,000 km away.

What are you craving right now?
A wicked graphic novel by an author of whom I am currently unaware.

What is coming up next for you?
I am currently developing my new show, Sound of the Beast with Theatre Passe Muraille as their Emcee-in-Residence.

To me, art is:

You can catch Craig Lauzon’s Group on
Thursday, November 10th @ 7:30pm

Header Image by Denise Grant c/o Playwrights Canada Press


J Miko Thomas: “these stories need to be told”

At this year’s Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival, Native Earth will present the inaugural 2-Spirit Cabaret, in partnership with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. This unique and exciting cabaret will entertain with performances by six 2-Spirit, Queer and Trans-identified Indigenous artists from Canada and around the world.

Landa Lakes

c/o Landa Lakes Facebook

J Miko Thomas, a Chickasaw writer, musician, activist and drag performance artist joins this year’s festival all the way from San Francisco. Performing in the 2-Spirit Cabaret as Landa Lakes, Thomas looks to the Indigenous presence in the history of her hometown as inspiration for her work. “Growing up in Oklahoma, I was always fascinated by the traditional stories. When I get the chance, it is always so great to be able to share them.”

For her first time in the Weesageechak festival, Thomas will perform Pintishkannovt nantahaat katihmi? (What Happened to Little Mouse?), which explores her Chicksaw and 2-Spirit identity. Developed as a multidisciplinary theatrical production, and first performed at the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco, Pintishkannovt nantahaat katihmi? takes the audience through the ancient world of Southeastern Tribal origin stories using traditional masks, pantomime and live music.

“I want the stories to reflect the reality of the culture”

“I have always believed that these stories need to be told, but at the same time I’ve heard stories retooled and repacked in a way to make it easier for the Western ear to appreciate.” Thomas explains. “I want the stories to reflect the reality of the culture, not a carefully controlled PR – polite ones for the kids.”

For this reason, Thomas hopes audiences will see her work and take from it a greater understanding of the differences, but also the similiarities between her culture and their own.

J Miko Thomas will perform an excerpt of Pintishkannovt nantahaat katihmi? during the 2-Spirit Cabaret on Friday November 11th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, along with Cherish Voilet Blood, Gwen Benaway, Michaela Washburn, Miss Ellaneous, Raven Davis, Smith Purdy and Caitlin Thrasher.

Something More from J Miko Thomas

What piece are you looking forward
to seeing at Weesageechak 29?

I am looking forward to seeing everything; it’s exciting.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?

My sister inspires me every day;
she is a strong Native woman and to be frank is my hero!

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
I most identify with the traditional teaching of the path that we walk – sometimes the way is hard while other times it easy
but no one can walk it for you, each of us walks it alone.

What are you craving right now?
Pashofa (corn soup).

What superpower would you like to have? 
I’d love to be able to read a person’s mind,
that way I wouldn’t have to argue as hard to change them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t live up to others expectations but decide what you want to do.

What is coming up next for you?
A piece I am working on for July for the
Queer Cultural Centers Festival.

To me, art is:

You can catch J Miko Thomas as Landa Lakes
in the inaugural
2-Spirit Cabaret at Buddies
Friday, November 11th @ 10:00 pm

Tickets for the 2-Spirit Cabaret include access to
the imagineNATIVE film screening
in Aki Studio @ 7:30 pm

Banner Photo c/o Jorge Rivas/Fusion


Olivia C. Davies: “We are the storytellers of our existence”

From Rene Highway to Santee Smith, Indigenous dance has held an important place in Native Earth’s 34-year history. Year after year, dance is developed as a part of Weesageechak Begins to Dance, and this year is no different. This year’s celebration of Indigenous dance will showcase the work of three of today’s most exciting Indigenous dance artists.


Olivia C. Davies

Making her second appearance in the festival is Métis/Anishnaabe/Welsh dancer and choreographer Olivia C. Davies  with her newest work, Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone. 

This York University graduate, and co-founder of MataDanze Collective, comes to the festival from Vancouver where she created Crow’s Nest with celebrated Sahtu Dene/Coast Salish storyteller Rosemary Georgeson.

This series of dance vignettes tells the story of Mama Crow, a woman coming to terms with her new circumstances. “[It] is a story about one woman’s awakening to the reality she exists in and the choice she makes to change,” Davies explains. “To recalibrate her compass in order to gather up what she has lost along the way.”

Davies drew inspiration for the piece from the way Indigenous women move in and out of their comfort zones. “We are caught in a world of diminishing returns; no matter how hard we try to maintain our traditions, society requires us to live a certain way.” This is something Davies has seen first-hand. “I know of many women who leave behind their life in one place to find happiness somewhere else.”

“As Indigenous creators, we are transformers of space, place, and time. We are the storytellers of our existence.”

Developing her work at this Indigenous performing arts festival not only provides the platform and support for Davies’ work, but also the connection to community. “As Indigenous creators, we are transformers of space, place, and time. We are the storytellers of our existence,” says Davies. “By sharing stories of transformation, I hope that others may be inspired to reflect on their personal narratives and be the change they want to see in the world.”

Davies will develop this work with the support of dramaturg Alejandro Ronceria. See Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone  on Thursday, November 17th at 7:30 pm in Aki Studio, along with other dance works by Christine Friday and Aria Evans.

Something More from Olivia C. Davies

What piece are you looking forward to seeing
at Weesageechak 29?

Christine Friday’s Maggie and Me.

Who is an Indigenous role model of yours?
How do they inspire you?
Starr Muranko is one of my role models, as are Santee Smith, Michelle Olson, Lara Kramer and Maura Garcia. These are matriarchs of the contemporary Indigenous dance world who are pursuing their craft and exchanging their knowledge with the future generation of creators.

Is there a traditional teaching that you most identify with?
Make space in your life to receive the gifts bestowed upon you.
Let go of what no longer serves you. Give back what you can.

What superpower would you like to have? Why?
Ability to fly. I have a recurring dream where I am running and then I gradually lift off and take flight – it feels very real,
like I’m swimming on an air-stream.

What is your favourite pastime?
Reading fiction novels about other peoples’ lives;
anything by David Sedaris.

What is your most memorable performance?
NGS (Native Girl Syndrome) by Lara Kramer. The show left an indelible mark on my psyche and my creative spirit was forever changed.

What are you craving right now?
End to land claim rights activists’ imprisonment.

What is coming up next for you?
After Weesagechak 29, I continue developing Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone with residency at Studio 303 in Montreal, residency at The Dance Centre in Vancouver,
and premiere of full-length work in May 2017.

To me, art is:
The antidote to the terror that threatens to overtake my Spirit when I pay attention to the sadness and suffering in the world around me.

You can catch Olivia C. Davies’
Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone
Thursday, November 17th @ 7:30pm