Kelsey Hanna and Donaldo Nava in Cameron Fraser-Monroe’s taqəš. (Emily Cooper photo)

Rising First Nation Vernon star brings ballet to hometown

Cameron Fraser-Monroe’s work tells traditional story Raven Returns the Water

Vernon-raised choreographer and rising star Cameron Fraser-Monroe’s taqəš headlines an evening of three masterful ballets.

Ballet Kelowna returns to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre with an uplifting mixed program of new contemporary and classical works Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

This three-part performance features National Ballet of Canada Choreographic Associate Guillaume Côté‘s masterfully athletic interpretation of Maurice Ravel’s famous Bolero, the premiere of an uplifting new classical work by award-winning choreographer Robert Stephen set to Franz Schubert’s warm and sweeping epic, Symphony No.5, and taqəš [tawKESH], a new work by Vernon’s own Fraser-Monroe.

Set to music by Polaris Prize-winning composer and singer Jeremy Dutcher, taqəš weaves together Fraser-Monroe’s classical ballet training and knowledge of traditional Coast Salish, grass and hoop dance to tell the traditional story Raven Returns the Water, centering on p̓oho (raven) and walθ (frog). The title taqəš means “to return something” in Ayajuthem, the language belonging to the Homalco, Klahoose, K’omoks and Tla’amin Nations, which speaks to Raven’s journey to find and recover the world’s water when it disappeared.

“It is very important that First Nations peoples tell our own stories,” said Fraser-Monroe. “While our stories do not have morals, they do communicate our ways of life, and I found messages about water, greed, community and justice to be relevant today.”

Fraser-Monroe is a member of the Tla’amin First Nation, as well as being of Ukrainian and Scottish descent. His dance career began with Ukrainian dance training in Vernon, which led him to a wide variety of training in dance, music and theatre, including studying with world champion hoop dancer Dallas Arcand and studied grass dance with Elder Mollie Bono.

Since graduating from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Fraser-Monroe has received choreographic commissions from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ballet Kelowna, the Winnipeg Summer Dance Collective, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Aspirants, the Artist’s Climate Collective, Transformation Cabaret at Vancouver’s Cultch theatre, and both PULSE and Indigenous Day Live! on APTN. He continues to practice and present hoop dance and is currently Ballet Kelowna’s first Artist in Residence.

“We are delighted to welcome Cameron as our first-ever Artist in Residence for our 20th anniversary season,” said Simone Orlando, artistic director and CEO of Ballet Kelowna. “In addition to offering Cameron the space and resources to create meaningful work that is sure to have a lasting impact on dance in Canada, we are thrilled that he will also join the company as a dancer in Vernon, as well as on tour to Ontario, B.C., and Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Founded in 2002, Ballet Kelowna is the sole professional dance company in B.C.’s Interior. The organization is committed to its role as a leader in the region through encouraging, promoting, and developing Canadian dancers and choreographers. The company performs annually for more than 12,000 audience members in Kelowna and on tour, and provides unique dance training opportunities and outreach programs. Orlando is an award-winning choreographer and former dancer with Ballet BC and The National Ballet of Canada.

Tickets to Vernon’s show ($45 for adults, $42 for seniors, and $40 for students) are available by calling 250-549-SHOW (7469).

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