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Yvonne Chartrand, Artistic Director of V’ni Dansi and one of The Dance Centre’s Artists-in-Residence this season, traces the inspirations and creative process behind her upcoming work Eagle Spirit:
Dreams and visions are the impetus behind my new work Eagle Spirit. Before my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had a dream about her body being extremely disfigured. After she passed, I dreamt of her body with my face. I believe these dreams prepared me for her final journey and initiated my thematic exploration of death, transformation and rebirth through dance. I wanted to honour my mother’s life and the sacred journey we all inevitably face. My creative work always includes consultations with Elders and they told me to dance these dreams.
My experience with eagle feathers was the other source of inspiration for this work. I found seven eagle feathers during and after my mom’s illness that gave me the emotional strength to support her. In Indigenous cultures, eagles are sacred and have a special connection to the Creator. I traveled to Brackendale and photographed eagles, studied photos and paintings and cultural teachings. Stories of eagles were told to me from three elders without me even asking them. I have always had a strong connection to eagles, and during the last visit my mother made to Vancouver an eagle flew into a tree a short distance away from us. I remember how thrilled we both were.
My initial research phase for Eagle Spirit began with a week-long residency with Davida Monk from m-body with a rigour of exploration. I initially sourced from myself, an Indigenous way of working I first learned from my time with the Full Circle Ensemble training program created by Margo Kane of Full Circle: First Nations Performance. I initially set the work on dance artists Eloi Homier and Julia Carr who worked with my source material and choreography. We also worked with structured improvisations exploring motif, phrasing, sequence and section, microscopic building from little to large, “staying with” the inspiration, dynamic range and staying alive in the creative process. We embraced Davida’s notion that the answer is within you as you develop your response ability. We worked with the feathers exploring dynamic range, pathways, sensations and the sounds of the feathers and then took the feathers away. We felt like we became composers as we worked with the sounds of the feathers.
During the first creation phase I continued to source from myself exploring image, sensation, story, song and movement. I brought Lee Su-Feh into the creative process as dramaturge and made the decision to create a solo work. The work evolved to include poetic and abstract movement and I discovered formulas and laws to support it. Transformations, mythological creatures, and metaphors became stronger voices as I brought in rollerblades and my mother’s winter parka to work with. Su-Feh encouraged me to let go of my feelings and source material, exploring more of the sensation and material, crafting the work with space, task, rhythm, timing and framing. I continued to define my aesthetic through seeing, feeling and distilling and taking more time to explore sensation and the DNA of the movement. This phase ended with a studio showing at the Dance Centre and inspiring reflections from the audience who came to witness the work.
The second creation phase continued with Su-Feh as dramaturge and Sandy Scofield as composer. I performed an excerpt at V’ni Dansi ’s 10th Annual Louis Riel Day Celebration. I studied the Fitzmaurice voice work with Su-Feh and explored more deeply the songs and stories within the work. I worked intensely with deeply experiencing sensations and the minutia of movement.
I look forward to this next phase into production working with artistic collaborators Robin Poitras creating costume, (my choreographic mentor for the last seven years), Sandy Scofield composing sound, Itai Erdal creating the lighting design and Lee Su-Feh again acting as dramaturge. This work will be performed for our 11th Annual Louis Riel Day Celebration on November 12 at the Faris Family Studio with the support of The Dance Centre’s residency program.
V’ni Dansi, in partnership with The Dance Centre, presents its annual Louis Riel Day Celebration featuring Yvonne’s new solo Eagle Spirit, and traditional Métis dances and music from The Louis Riel Métis Dancers.
Saturday November 12, 2016 at 8pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Photos by Gary Morin
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