No doubt you’re unfamiliar with the great migration arc of an Indigenous North American people, who moved westward from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes region, a move from saltwater to fresh.
That journey forms the basis of Miigis: Underwater Panther from Canada’s leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance. Although typically categorized in the genre of dance and as a dance company, Red Sky Performance, as its tagline makes plain, is “More than Dance, we are a Movement.”
The work is touted as merging elements from dance, music, film, and theatrical innovation to create a fusion that accentuates the dancers’ athleticism, helps shed light on “the power of nature,” and also touches on the Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe, people’s history and folklore, including references to the mystery beings, the rise of matriarchy, and the ancestral pull of the subsequent seven generations after the great migration. In their native language, the tribe’s name translates as People of the Deep Water.
The work will mark Red Sky Performance’s Kennedy Center debut, a fitting development given that the company bills Miigis as a “landmark production [bringing] a significant cultural story to the surface, centering our narrative, and opening the imaginations of audiences.” Furthermore, the folkloric archetypes and mythical-like creatures “are part of the Indigenous canon of North America, [yet] have rarely — if ever — been seen or heard on stages.”
And that reality is also what prompted Sandra Laronde to launch Red Sky Performance in 2000, naming the company after her name in her native Anishinaabemowin, which translates as “Red Sky Eagle Woman.”
The company pursues developing new work through a deeply collaborative process, with a range of artists and creators spanning all genres of the performing arts, and with a goal of expanding and elevating contemporary performance that is “informed by Indigenous worldview and culture.”
Laronde’s collaborators on Miigis include six dancers and four composer/musicians. Yet at the heart of everything is the story, or stories, being shared and passed on, and serving, in Laronde’s estimation, “as the embodiment of Indigenous voice, ethos, and key to empowerment.”
Miigis: Underwater Panther is an early entry, and the unofficial opening salvo, in a special River Run festival presented by the Kennedy Center aimed at celebrating the world’s rivers, or large bodies of water, their role in sustaining life and inspiring art, and their influence on cultures.
The bulk of festival events take place in the month falling between World Water Day (March 22) and Earth Day (April 22), including Our Blue Planet, a multimedia concert in collaboration with NASA and National Geographic (4/5); Malavika Sarukkai’s River Sutra, a work of classical dance from India with unique sound and light design to evoke the beauty and sacred sensibility of the River Ganga (4/5-6); and the interactive and immersive dance performance from Buenos Aires Social Tango Project (4/8).
Thursday, March 2, through Saturday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets are $39 to $49. Visit www.kennedy-center.org or call 202-467-4600.
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