Saturday, May 25, 2024
May 25, 2024

Four-day event celebrates Indigenous dance

By Kirsten Bolton

For Artspring

From Wednesday, April 10 to Saturday, April 13, ArtSpring is proud to host the Matriarchs Uprising Festival, celebrating contemporary work of Indigenous women creating and dancing stories of transformation.    

Artistic director and festival curator, Olivia C. Davies (Anishinaabe) has woven together a captivating program for Salt Spring audiences that features dance performances by award-winning Hoop Dancer Beany John (Taino/Cree), O.Dela Arts’ artistic associate Sophie Dow (Métis), and Vn’i Dansi’s artistic director, Yvonne Chartrand (Métis.)  

The headliner 7:30 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday respectively are “Indigi-Dance on Screen,” an hour-long collection of evocative short dance films from Indigenous artists who are activating the land with their movements, followed the next night by the mainstage Matriarchs Uprising Performance featuring three striking choreographic stories by the dancers themselves.  

In the production, John, a grass dancer, hoop dancer, and traditional artisan from Kehewin Alberta, uses hoops as the circles that hold the stories and dances within them. The stories in “The Awakening” capture growth after the storm — the pandemic — and an awakening of artists of all nations coming together for support.   

“Eagle Spirit” was inspired by the illness and passing of Chartrand’s mother and the sudden abundance of eagle feathers that appeared in her travels. As eagles are believed to have a special connection to the spirit world, working with feathers and the medicine wheel were essential components in imagining this new dance work. Chartrand is a national award-winning master Métis jigger, and her contemporary works are always informed by her Métis identity.   

A collaboration between John and Dow, a Treaty-1 born multidisciplinary creative with Michif/Assiniboine and French/Ukrainian roots, “Carriers and Keepers of the Ancestral Portals” invites audiences to peek through portals, as old and new ancestors pass each other by.

The Talking Truths Circle Conversation and Tea invites community members to a panel discussion about ancestral legacies, the importance of dance in expressing experiences, and its role in uplifting communities and revitalizing culture.  

Workshops include Davies’ Masterclass, an introduction to contemporary Indigenous dance methodology on Wednesday, and on Saturday, the Indigenous Dance Sampler will have people learning about the history and steps of the Red River Jig and how to handle hoops from a world champion hoop dancer. Hoops provided!   

For tickets visit

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