We caught up with Margaret Grenier to discuss the work she is developing during our DanceLab interdisciplinary research program:
The Dance Centre (TDC): Describe your role and work with the Dancers of Damelahamid.
Margaret Grenier (MG): I grew up within the company of the Dancers of Damelahamid, which was established in 1967, as a dancer and singer. For the past 15 years I have taken on the role of Artistic Director and also choreographed the past several dance pieces. These roles however have been in close dialogue with the other company members as we co-create choreography, songs, and regalia as well as working with different mediums that support the narrative and themes of each dance production.
TDC: What ideas are you exploring during your DanceLab research?
MG: The Dancers of Damelahamid will work towards developing a new multi-media dance work, Mînowin that integrates narrative, movement, song, and multi media design, connecting to landscapes from contemporary perspectives of customary Indigenous dance forms. Mînowin describes how we clarify direction, as we recover and reinterpret the teachings that define and redefine who we are, and that are accessed through story, dance and song. The piece will explore the moments where we connect with one another, moments that bring new life into our artistic practices, the upheaval and rebalancing, and places of renewal for each generation as we redefine ourselves.
TDC: Who are the collaborators on this project? How did you meet them?
MG: The company has existing relationships with the collaborators involved in this creation phase. Elders Betsy Lomax, Margaret Harris, Lawrence Trottier, have mentored the Dancers of Damelahamid for several years and the company has established relationships with mentors Musqueam Elder Larry Grant and Squamish Elder Maurice Nahanee. The company has also established a relationship with dramaturge, Peter Espiritu, through the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in 2017 and through the YIRAMA YANGGA-NA:ACCELERATE International First Nations Creative Leadership Forum in 2016 in Wollongong, Australia. During Flicker, the company established a working relationship with Andy Moro who will be part of the subsequent production phase, integrating the technical and design elements.
TDC: What differences and similarities have you experienced/do you expect when working with indigenous artists from different countries?
MG: The Dancers of Damelahamid have had the opportunity to work with various Indigenous artists from the Pacific Rim and South America. As with any collaboration, the combined perspectives of artists drawing from different experiences opens up possibilities and deepens a collective understanding of the key concepts underlying the work. Further, there is a shared colonial history of trauma and rebuilding of artistic practices that when accessed through dialogue and the creation process, nourishes the work in a way that can only take place when we have the opportunity to develop work together.
DanceLab: Margaret Grenier/Dancers of Damelahamid
Sunday February 25, 4-5pm | Free
Photo: Chris Randle