Native Earth Announces The Line-up Of WEESAGEECHAK BEGINS TO DANCE

Native Earth Performing Arts presents the 31st annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival. This development festival celebrates theatre, dance, opera and multidisciplinary creations from across Turtle Island from November 14 to 24, 2018 at Aki Studio.

The festival opens with a book launch and a performance of a ground-breaking multidisciplinary theatrical production. "Indian Act: Residential School Plays" edited by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard is an anthology of seven plays by contemporary Indigenous playwrights which includes Tara Beagan, Drew Hayden Taylor and Yvette Nolan, a tribute to survivors and their families who endured the impacts of the Indian residential school system. Presented in partnership with Playwrights Canada Press, the evening features readings from the anthology and a discussion with St. Bernard.

Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, The Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society presents Making Treaty 7, a unique intertwined work of dance, theatre, music and poetry built on guidance and stories from Treaty 7 Elders. Exploring the true spirit and intent of what the treaty means to Indigenous peoples, while investigating the contemporary consequences and implications of Treaty 7, this breathtaking collaboration of six performers is directed by Michelle Thrush and Blake Brooker, composition and musical direction by Kris Demeanor and Anders Hunter, and design by Andy Moro and Sandi Somers. .... with this correct text: Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, The Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society presents Kaahsinnoniks which roughly translates to ancestor - yet means so much more. Building on the Making Treaty 7 productions which saw sold-out crowds since 2014 and a national tour last year, in 2018 we take a fresh look at the history and legacy of the events at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877. The result is a unique work of dance, theatre, music, and poetry built on guidance and stories from Treaty 7 Elders, and through them, our Kaahsinnoniks. The performance invites an exploration of the true spirit and intent of what the treaty meant to Indigenous peoples, while investigating the consequences and implications of Treaty 7, 141 years later.

The first week of the festival features Gashkigwaaso, an exploration of the ways the Anishinaabe people of Grassy Narrows are stitching their fractured landscapes back together, by Dora award-winning performer Waawaate Fobister (Anishinaabe); They Are Still Talking, a dance-shadow puppet collaborative 4-part homage to our connection with our ancestors, by Maura García Dance (non-enrolled Cherokee/Mattamuskeet) from Kansas, U.S.A; and In The Abyss, a search for the scientific fact as well as the beautiful metaphor that we are all made of stardust, by Aria Evans (Mi'kmaq/Black/settler heritage) of Go To Company.

Dora-nominated composers and creators of Giiwedin, Spy Dénommé-Welch (Algonquin) and Catherine Magowan of Unsettled Scores (formerly known as An Indie[n] Rights Reserve) return with an excerpt of their second full-length opera Canoe, which received development support in Native Earth's Mskomini Giizis Residency this July. Blending Indigenous oral tradition with neo-baroque and jazz/blues motifs, this unique operatic performance shares a tale of transformation that revolves around the lives of eccentric sisters.

The festival also welcomes Shanawdithit, a new opera with libretto by former artistic director Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) and music by Dean Burry, which is based on the story of the last recorded surviving member of the Beothuk Nation in Newfoundland. Presented in partnership with Tapestry Opera and Opera on the Avalon, the excerpt features Marion Newman (Kwagiulth/Stó:l? First Nations/English/Irish/Scottish), Aria Evans, Clarence Frazer and Rebecca Cuddy, with directorial support of Tapestry Opera's General Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori. Rounding up the evening is a panel discussion "Beyond Butterfly: Abandoning the exotic for a representative opera of today" featuring Indigenous and culturally diverse opera artists.

Introducing the next generation of creators from Native Earth's two-year development program Animikiig Creators Unit, week two kicks off with works-in-development by playwrights Jenn Forgie (Métis), Frances Koncan (Anishinaabe), Smith Purdy (Mi'kmaq), and Quelemia Sparrow (Musqueam Nation), saxophonist Olivia Shortt (Anishinaabe/Irish), Natalie Sappier (Wolastoqiyik) and Ty Sloane (Ojibwe/East Asian/Irish/Iberian).

The festival continues with presentations of multidisciplinary works-in-development, including Boozhoo Manoomin, a musical suite that explores manoomin (wild rice), the sacred food of the Anishnabeg, by pianist and composer Beverley McKiver (Lac Seul First Nation); ?tszan, a story about mending family through language reclamation, by Yvonne Wallace (Ucwalmicw); and Romeo Igwa Juliet, an Indigenous adaptation of Shakespeare's classic, by award-winning director and filmmaker Pamela Matthews (Cree). Theresa Cutknife (Nehiyaw/Puerto Rican), Pesch Nepoose (Cree), and Jesse Wabegijig (Ojibway) of Out of Sync Collective and Centre for Indigenous Theatre return from this year's Paprika Festival with a reading of S.O.S. Saving Our Sovereignty which tells the story of the devastating effects of suicide pacts amongst Indigenous youth.

Pushing the boundaries of storytelling, the festival also showcases The Properties of Spirit, a weaving of autobiographical experiences with Métis identity through spoken word poetry, by award-winning filmmaker and published poet Jessica Lea Fleming (Métis/Scottish); My Holographic Nightmares, a partially fictional, partially imagined, partially nonsensical walkthrough of an artist's inner head, by classical and contemporary saxophonist and noise-maker Olivia Shortt (Anishinaabe/Irish); You used to call me Marie, an exploration of how young women inherit trauma from the matriarchs in the family through five Indigenous love stories of two souls, by Vancouver-based artist Tai Grauman (Métis/Cree/Haudenosaunee); and Be A Babe, a powerful solo piece which returns from last year's 2-Spirit Cabaret, by nationally acclaimed performer and comedian Cherish Violet Blood (Blackfoot).

Native Earth welcomes Ondinnok, the first francophone Indigenous theatre company based in Montreal, for a presentation of El buen vestir, Tlakentli choreographed by Leticia Vera (Nahuatl) and Carlos Rivera (Mixteque). This multidisciplinary dance-theatre piece follows the intimate journey of two Indigenous immigrants who embark on naming the wounds of oppression and removing the Western colonial uniform, reflecting on the exchanges and meetings between Indigenous peoples in South and North America.

Continuing the celebration of Indigenous dance, the festival features Land of My Waters, a harmony of movement and spoken word uncovering the identity of a mixed race woman, by Nyda Kwasowsky (Guyanese); Eloise, an honouring of the inner terrain of the body and its ties to the land, by Jeanette Kotowich (Cree/Métis); Maggie & Me, a healing dance which revitalizes the Anishinaabe culture, by the winner of the 2018 KM Hunter Award for Dance Christine Friday (Temagami First Nation); and Consequence, a multidisciplinary dance-theatre piece that enlightens the traditional Niitsitapii stories of Napi, by Artistic Director of Circadia Indigena JP Longboat (Mohawk).

Native Earth is honoured to partner with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre again to present the third edition of the 2-Spirit Cabaret, a celebration of strength, beauty and talent of queer and 2-Spirit Indigenous people. Curated and hosted by award-winning 2-Spirit theatre artist Michaela Washburn (Cree/English/Irish/French), the cabaret presents an exciting evening of performances, music and spoken word.


Native Earth Performing Arts is Canada's oldest professional Indigenous theatre company. Currently in its 36th year, Native Earth is dedicated to creating, developing and producing professional artistic expressions of the Indigenous experience in Canada. Through stage productions (theatre, dance and multi-disciplinary art), script development, apprenticeships and internships, Native Earth seeks to fulfill a community of artistic visions. It is a vision that is inclusive and reflective of the artistic directions of members of the Indigenous community who actively participate in the arts.

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