Kaha:wi Dance Theatre brings its new multi-media dance piece

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre brings its new multi-media dance piece

TransMigration gives life to artist’s legacy

Ontario’s Kaha:wi Dance Theatre honours Norval Morrisseau through dance, music and visuals when it comes to Vernon March 28.

Known as the “Picasso of the North,” Ojibwe shaman and artist Norval Morrisseau’s work was transformative for the times.

His paintings depicted the legends of his people, culture, and political tensions between Canadian and European traditions and is still recognizable for its thick black outlines and bright colours.

On March 28, Ontario’s Kaha:wi Dance Theatre honours Morrisseau through dance, music and visuals when it visits the Vernon Performing Arts Centre with its new performance, TransMigration.

“Everyone has a journey. We all pass through hardship and struggle, but Canadian artist Norval Morrisseau illustrated his story of work and healing into an amazing world of colour,” said Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre director Santee Smith.

Morrisseau first ascended to acclaim in the early 1960s, gaining national attention for his commission of a large mural in the “Indians of Canada“ pavilion during Expo 67, but his enthralling story started many years before in Northern Ontario.

At 19, Morrisseau was overcome by a great sickness. Doctors failed to help him, and fearing for his life his mother called an Anishinabe medicine woman to perform a renaming ceremony in the hopes that a powerful new name would give energy to save his life.

Morrisseau was given the name Copper Thunderbird and his health victoriously returned. From that day forward, Morrisseau signed his works with his new name.

The thunderbird, representing positive spiritual strength, along with the serpent, representing darkness and evil, became iconic standards in Morrisseau’s compositions.

After being influenced by one of Morrisseau’s sketches, Smith took four years to complete her vision for TransMigration.

“The word transmigration infers movement,” she explained. “What could be more fitting as the dancers moving through space while telling the story of Morrisseau’s life passing through time.”

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre provided the perfect canvas to honour the milestones of Morrisseau’s life: residential school, instant fame, alcoholism and his work as a visionary man.

The end result are the themes of good against evil with Morrisseau’s life brought to the stage with multidimensional impact.

TransMigration sweeps audiences into a dreamworld and takes you to another plain where you are overwhelmed by what you see and hear,” said Smith.

The brilliant images are brought to life by the talented seven-member company, including well-known aboriginal TV and film actor Billy Merasty as Morrisseau.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre is one of Canada’s leading contemporary dance companies, recognized for its seamless fusion of indigenous and contemporary dance.

Smith’s unique voice and vision are highlighted within the essence of traditional movement alongside contemporary dance artists and storytellers.  With an original score complemented with licensed music from Canadian artists, a beautiful cinematic scene is set for Morrisseau’s murals to come alive on stage.

“The music is perhaps one of the most engaging parts of the entire work,” said Smith.

While in town Smith is offering a week-long dance camp to local youth ages 12 to 18, starting Monday and continuing to March 27.

The camp will include contemporary, choreography, traditional aboriginal dance forms, hip hop and drama.

The Spring Break camp is free to participants and includes lunch and two tickets to the show.

Spaces were still available as of press time. Contact the Ticket Seller by calling 549-SHOW (7469) to register.

Tickets for the March 28 production of TransMigration are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and $30 for students and are on sale through the Ticket Seller box office, and online at www.ticketseller.ca.