Tag Archives: Gitxsan

Tiva Quinn Reviews Minowin On Now At The Cultch To November 24, 2019

22 Nov

MinowinDancers of Damelahamid’s latest production, Mînowin, is visually stunning and deeply meditative.

For context, it’s important to know that Canada’s potlatch ban lasted from 1885 to 1951 – many people continued to practice their dances and hold potlatches in secret, but there was still a powerful fear that these traditions might become lost. This dance group was founded in the 1960s to ensure that Gitxsan dance traditions would continue, to celebrate the fact that the dances could be taught and presented openly again. Today the company is run by Margaret Grenier, daughter of the founders, and is a highly respected dance group that performs all over the world.

In Mînowin, the group celebrates both Gitxsan and Cree traditions through a variety of short pieces, closing with a contemporary dance focusing on resilience. Powerful singing and dancing comes together with a truly brilliant set, projection and lighting design that gives each piece a unique sense of place, transforming The Cultch into an ocean with swimming orcas, then a herd of horses galloping through prairie grass, then a forest fire that’s gradually subsiding, allowing new life to begin. In some of the later pieces, the lighting is integrated directly into the dance, creating echoes of dancers steps or the sweeping motion of a cedar bough. Throughout, the overall lighting scheme is somewhat dark, adding drama to the lighting effects and the motions of the dancers.

My one quibble in all this is that I didn’t always know what was going on. Some pieces are introduced in an indigenous language followed by English, some in an indigenous language only, and some had no introduction at all. It feels peevish to complain about this. Did indigenous people in Canada ever have to deal with situations where they didn’t speak the language and didn’t know why things were happening? Duh. Even so I’d say if it’s going to bother you a lot when there’s clearly a story being told and you don’t know quite what the story is, then don’t go.

If you’re ready to appreciate the beauty of the performance and to just let go during the parts when the meaning isn’t handed to you, then absolutely go. I’m finding there was a dreamlike quality to Mînowin that has me appreciating it even more the next day.  The production is on for only a short run at The Cultch to November 24th. To grab tickets, visit The Cultch.

By Contributing Writer: Tiva Quinn

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