Prior to “In Motion”, our class attended the Talking Two Spirit Panel on Thursday, February 25th. One of the panel members, Byron Chief Moon, a dancer and choreographer for Greed, mentioned the new elements that are considered and involved in the process of creating contemporary Indigenous works. In particular, he mentioned how digital soundscapes, visuals, and lighting are in the conversation of developing a piece. As a practicing artist who works within the digital arts, I was particularly interested in witnessing “In Motion” of how elements like choreography, lighting and sound are fused together to depict a cohesive concept.
The Talking Stick Festival “In Motion” was made of two performances: The NDN Way and Greed. Upon entering the theatre, the first thing I observed was the Talking Stick propped on stage left with a light shining above. This reminded that tonight the stage was specifically for the performers allowing them to be uninterrupted time and space to share their stories. As an audience member, my role would be to carefully listen and engage to the ideas of the speaker.
The NDN Way
In The NDN Way, the lighting and soundscape throughout the performance illustrated the dancers, Brian Solomon and Mariana Medellin-Meinke, movement within time and the earth.
The beginning the performance all lights in the room were off as one flashlight was lit. Solomon shined the light on Meinke’s body gently, as it captured and guided the viewer’s gaze. The light too danced in motion while tracing her figure producing a flowing motion and depicting the commencement of Meinke and Solomon’s journey returning back into the earth.
As for the soundscape, the tracks assembled replicated an individual channel surfing the radio. There was sound of static, an interview with Ron Evan and western songs. Occasionally, the two too would yell spontaneously. The combination of all of these sounds reflected some sort of struggle where the performers were trying to find their place within earth. In particular, the random static in between the interview and the songs reminded me of perhaps an Indigenous person’s conflict between their Indigenous culture and the Western culture that has been assimilated upon them.
Greed was performed by four dancers: Byron Chief-Moon, Jerry Longboat, Luglio S. Romero and Olivia C. Davies. The piece refers to the times in the stock market when millions are won or lost. The soundscape, visuals and choreography allude to these moments of struggle, tension, transformation, playfulness, and power all found within greed. The range of these elements amplifies the dark and gloomy ambiance of the performance.
In particular, there was one scene that exemplified the intensity through the use of harsh lighting. At one point of the performance, light from above shone directly onto Byron Chief Moon where the rest of the performers were circled around him. His wrists were attached together as if he had chained by manacles and he was struggling to stand up as he raised his hands into the light. The glaring light from above lit Byron Chief Moon forcefully as it brings attention to the restraint and constriction he is suffering from. Perhaps, insinuating that the light is a route to a different world there is a sense of struggle, force and power between Byron Chief Moon and another realm.
The lighting was not always shone from above as it spanned from being lit from the sides or the light source being diluted. The variety depended on the songs and different levels of personalities illustrated in the duration of the piece.
Like The NDN Way, Greed too was composed of multiple songs. The music ranged from opera, to electronic, rock, and classical. With the diversity in the music genres, there was also a breadth in personas showcased. It seemed as though each song represented a different persona of the performers. I was particularly interested in how each performer took on multiple roles on stage even when one was not the main focus. Collectivity was present from all of the dancers in each song. Because of the rotation and multiplicity of roles the performers took on, this aided the viewers to seek the greed spirit of all levels in personality.
Review on Solomon’s performance in Earth song
Article: “Earth Song pays tribute to the importance of connection”
“Raven Spirit Dance Society shares contemporary dance from a distinctly Aboriginal worldview. She also talks about how the piece deeply speaks to the connections individuals have between the Earth, their identity and themselves.”
“Bodies carve through space while fluidly moving around the state”
-Ileanna Cheladyn (Vancity Buzz)
Discussion Question: Do you think contemporary performances draw the same interactivity from spectators as it does in traditional ceremonies, performances, and different art forms?