Unpacking Dancers of Damelahamid’s Mînowin with Margaret Grenier

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Dancers of Damelahamid, Mînowin

DanceWorks’ new season opens with Mînowin, created by the acclaimed British Columbia-based Indigenous dance company Dancers of Damelahamid. Choreographed by Margaret Grenier, the company’s Executive and Artistic Director, this original production will be presented at Harbourfront Centre Theatre for two days only: October 18-19, 2019. Mînowin integrates narrative, movement, song, performance, and multimedia design. It connects to landscapes from contemporary perspectives of customary Indigenous dance forms, and describes through story, dance and song how we determine our direction, as we recover and reinterpret teachings that define – and redefine – who we are.  

Originating in the Northwest Coast of British Columbia, Dancers of Damelahamid draws from origin stories, and explores ways to translate legendary perspectives through a contemporary lens. Mînowin will engage with the complexities of a conventional performance space through the use of new media, such as 3D motion graphics and interactive technologies. And the production will balance the space by adding contemporary reflections of Indigenous identity through multimedia elements, in order to immerse the audience in a narrative that illustrates moments of connection, understanding, and renewal. The company’s rich history of masked dance ensures a compelling performance, which celebrates the diversity of Indigenous cultures across Canada. Through dramatic dance, captivating narrative, intricately carved masks, and elaborate regalia, Dancers of Damelahamid seeks to transform time and space, and bridge the ancient with the contemporary.

Ahead of the Toronto performances, Grenier shared with SesayArts some insight into the collaborative creation of Mînowin, the roots of the company’s work, and how dance, story and technology intersect to connect the past with the future. 

SesayArts:  This will be DanceWorks’ first show of the season. Why do you suppose Mînowin was chosen?

MG: Mînowin premiered in September at the National Arts Centre as part of the launch of Indigenous Theatre and this tour follows its premiere. We feel greatly supported by DanceWorks who have been in conversation with us throughout Mînowin’s development.

Dancers of Damelahamid, Mînowin

SesayArts:The press release describes this original production as a new multi-media work. Can you share any surprises?  What will audiences experience at Mînowin, and who should see it?

MG: Mînowin integrates interactive media projection using live motion capture of the dancers’ movements. The media is supportive of the choreography and is intended to help the audience connect the movement with the narrative and visual design. Mînowin is intended for all audiences. 

SesayArts: Why is this a good time for Toronto audiences to see Mînowin, and what do you hope they will think about – and possibly act on – as a result of seeing it?

MG: Mînowin explores how we move through places that are difficult and how these struggles are what redefine us as we move forward. We are drawn to our ancestral knowledge and our stories because they are our foundation and they guide us. Mînowin is also about resiliency and a call to collectively come to a place of understanding and offer this strength to our future generations. 

SesayArts: Can you speak to us a little about Mînowin‘s developmental journey? What was involved in taking the initial idea all the way to a fully-formed dancework?

MG: Mînowin was created over the course of several residencies that brought together collaborators in visual and media design, animation, mentors and cultural consultants. 

Everything begins with story in our practice, and the movement, song, regalia, soundscape, projection and media elements are all developed concurrently to bring the vision to life.  

SesayArts: What would you like audiences to know about the dancers bringing this piece to life? Who are they and what kind of training has brought them to the Harbourfront Centre Theatre?

Dancers of Damelahamid, Mînowin

MG: The Dancers of Damelahamid are a family whose foundation is rooted in the work of our parent’s generation and who perform in Mînowin. We also work with invited dancers who become part of our family and continue to dance with us beyond the life of any one production.

News You Can Use

What: Mînowin created by Dancers of Damelahamid  | Choreographed by Margaret Grenier | Presented by DanceWorks

Who: Audiences of all ages

When: October 18 – 19, 2019, 8 PM | Student Matinee on October 18, 2019

Where: Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W, Toronto, Ontario.

Info and Tickets: danceworks.ca 

© Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya / SesayArts Magazine, 2019

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