Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

14/06/2023 - 17/06/2023

Kia Mau Festival 2023

Production Details

Artistic Director/Choreographer: Margaret Grenier
Creative Producer/ Set & Visual Design: Andrew Grenier
Collaborating Director: Charles Koroneho

Dancers of Damelahamid

Mînowin immerses audiences in a narrative that illustrates moments of connection, understanding, and renewal.

Mînowin illuminates the process of finding direction and explores understandings of organic moments that arise when we connect with one another. These connections breathe new life into our artistic practices and offer critical inquiries with performance spaces.

Through integrating narrative, movement, song, performance, and new multimedia design, Mînowin connects landscapes and Coastal form line with contemporary perspectives of customary Indigenous dance forms. The Dancers of Damelahamid draw from origin stories and explore ways to translate these perspectives through a contemporary lens.

Through multimedia elements, this production balances the performance space by adding contemporary reflections of Indigenous identity, immersing audiences in a narrative that illustrates moments of connection, understanding, and renewal.

Artistic Director/Choreographer: Margaret Grenier
Creative Producer/ Set & Visual Design: Andrew Grenier
Collaborating Director: Charles Koroneho
Projection & Lighting Design: Andy Moro
Dramaturg: Peter Rockford Espiritu
Regalia: Rebecca Baker-Grenier
New Media: Sammy Chien
Collaborating Composer: Ted Hamilton
Flute: Jessie McMann
Collaborating Director of Animation: Dallas Parker
Animator: Kristen Campbell
Technical Director: Jeff Harrison
Collaborating Producer: Eponymous
Indigenous Artwork: David Boxley, Jim Charlie
Cultural Consultants: Elder Betsy Lomax, Lawrence Trottier, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, Meghann O’Brien

Dance ,

60 Mins

Celebration and sharing of their Indigenous artistry.

Review by Sophie Sheaf-Morrison and Lyne Pringle 19th Jun 2023

Sophie Sheaf-Morrison

After enduring the nearly 70 year-long Potlatch Ban that forbade their Indigenous practices and ceremonies until 1951, this production by the Dancers of Damelahamid is a celebration and sharing of their Indigenous artistry.   Mînowin explores concepts of renewal, life and direction, holding true to their Indigenous dance forms whilst incorporating modern elements in their multimedia production. 

The atmosphere is set from the second I sit down.  The air is dense with the theatre’s looming smoke machine, veiling the sight of six panels along the stage’s backdrop around the central towering wooden panel.  This panel has a lightning bolt crack running down the centre that illuminates throughout the progression of the scenes.  There is a flat wooden circle on the centre of the stage.

As the lights dim for the start of the show, a man dressed in regalia of blue and white Coastal form line art, designed by Rebecca Baker-Grenier, walks carefully into the space.  As if calling for something, he blows a whistle in four directions atop the central circle.  This attracts the first masked animal character who creeps softly and cautiously in a low hunch towards the man.  As the characters approach the wooden circle, it is illuminated with sprinklings of star projections which gradually build to a soothing swirl of a galaxy.  The man begins shaking a rattle that leads four more masked animal characters to the circle, beginning a cycle of the animals circling the front of the stage under the man’s lead before joining back into a circle of unison swaying.  These animal characters are unique in their beautifully carved masks, their red and blue felt-like regalia and their movement quality.  For example, the wolf, adorning its wolf skin as well as a carved mask, crossed one arm around its snout with the other arm replicating its tail, whilst one of the bird animals lightly shuffled and shunted through the space with a quick and curious quality with her head and shoulders.  Perhaps this encounter presents the relationships between man and animal. 

After all four animals plus the first animalistic character takes their turn in the cycle, the man leads them off the stage.  Lunging low with his eyes focussed on the first masked creature, the relationship between the man and this being appears apprehensive yet calm as they accept each other in the space.  

Shortly following this the dancers continue the circular and sequential quality as they re-enter, unmasked, from stage left to circle the wooden platform before travelling off stage left again.  One by one, they execute the same sequence of animal-inspired locomotion, dressed in pink garments with floral embellishments.  Their movement is greatly focussed on their hands whilst they softly land each step in time with the reliable beat.  Although they have the same set movement of diving, swooping or gentle striking, they are all unique in their execution of each focus.  In their individuality, they come together as a whole collective throughout the performance in their strong and unified intentions to represent and reiterate their Indigenous stories. 

Out of this therapeutic comfort of their rotation, one dancer enters with a new quality.  This quality is spritely with more torso movement, as if swimming through water across the stage. The voice over narrates as this character, a muskrat, dives and drowns in the water.  The concept of renewal now becomes apparent.  In this tender and spiritual moment, the performers cleanse and bring life back to the muskrat.  Additionally, the voice over suggests the theme of coexistence of man and animals on the land, directing the attention to a wolf’s white silhouette running across the six panels on the stage’s backdrop.  From here, the energy increases in a scene of galloping and leaping to replicate that of horses.  This scene is performed with ease, evident by the internal and serene expressions of the performers, despite the intense stamina required for such dance.

Their movement quality calms down with the design of wheat swaying in the wind transitioning to fire embers projected on the back panels.  This is one example of how the backdrop designs by Andy Moro establish the landscapes of mountain ranges and fields throughout the performance.  In this calm state, the dancers lay face down on the floor, shifting and gradually rising like fireweed that grows after the fire, as the voice over describes.  They are initiated by the man’s live Indigenous singing and drumming on a drum with formline art adorning its skin.    He sings centre stage with a sense of empowerment and strength, and this is seen again in a later scene where another dancer sings with the backup of two instrumentalists.  From my perspective these elements of live singing are the most captivating moments in the production because they bring a greater depth and vulnerability to the performers. 

In the final scenes of the performance, the dancers are dressed in modern day navy suits, they are wearing abstracted human masks, and they dance with spears and arrows before smoke billows in from the back of the stage.  Ceremonially, the red and blue garment is brought back on stage and draped over Margaret Grenier, perhaps symbolising how their Indigenous practices will continue being carried with them and future generations. 

Overall, the dancers’ movement quality, energy and pathways are diverse from the gentle animalistic treading to the warrior-like striking of spears and arrows near the end.  Their physicality is performative and inviting, whilst their presence appears content in who they are without relying on the audience’s affirmation. 

Andrew Grenier and Andy Moro, the Set/Visual Designer and the Projection/Lightning Designer respectively, are behind the production’s impressive range of sets, props and landscapes.  There are projections on the back panels in addition to the projection on the wooden circle.  At one point this circle is swept by tree branches that astonishingly reveal projected Coastal formline art.  Later on, the floor projections become perfectly aligned rays pointed towards each dancer and initiated by the strikes of the staff Margaret Grenier holds.  Furthermore, in terms of set and props, there are illuminated whale puppets, various animal and human masks, at least four dress changes, drums, a whistle, rattles, spears and bows.  I find all of these components mesmerising yet overwhelming at times, especially near the end. 

The density of props and elements highlights the moments of simplicity.  The most powerful moment in the performance for me is the final scene.  Margaret Grenier breaks the fourth wall with the performers lined up behind her, and she speaks in their Indigenous language and in English.  Similarly, to the two scenes of live singing earlier in the work, this dialogue feels unified with the voice overs and pre-recorded music.  Grenier’s final words about the performance and their practices tie the cyclical work together, ending with a wholesome, empowered and tranquil tone.  

Northwest Coast Indigenous Art | The Canadian Encyclopedia

MÎNOWIN – Kia Mau Festival

Mînowin – Dancers of Damelahamid : Dancers of Damelahamid

Lyne Pringle

Special people from the sacred northwest of the vast northern wilderness. It begins – the calling forth from the ancients, whistling to the four directions.

A shimmer of beads, adorned in intricate garb, the shaman shakes the rattle, evokes animal spirits – the creatures of the land emerge on a carpet of stars. 

They pad in soft boots, swaying arms held wide, animalistic prowl handed down through the generations, gorgeous animal spirits brother/sister crow, eagle, wolf, orca, smiling wily fox. 

They dance into being the visually rich universe. The swoops and curves of the orca with neon fins, everything connected in its rightful place – the natural world of theses peoples, inside and outside of them in a continuous ever changing unfolding. 

Soft dancers, meditative, mesmeric, humble, eyes downcast, swirling in ceremonial formations, to the sound of the mother tongue.

King fisher, loon in undulations of hand and precious body, toe heel, toe heel, soft heel to earth in time with drum reverberates through time and space – shakes the heart, curves the spine, heals the land. Footfall changes, layers are added as muskrat sacrifices himself for the creation of the land. 

Galloping wolves exultant – fierce. Everything exactly placed in its own time and rightness, a sophisticated tale unfolds moment by moment, molecule by molecule, spirit by spirit.

Shimmering figures become heroic horses, fringed shawls, of such exquisite beauty, fly.

Each dancer part of the whole yet powerfully individual.

Fire, cedar, plants, sound of flames crackling, resurgence, resurgence, resurgence – resilience. Gifts, lying prone, face down, caress the earth, hover, fly – bright embers, the wiri of the hands.

Feather symbol slices air, held aloft, swoops, signals, evokes the dive of the eagle.

Scooting jumps, frenzied melee, crouched light yet earthy. Unified in intent. Lightning bolt and stamp of the staff split the world asunder into renewal and hope.

Humans – take their place amidst the abundance, beautiful intertwined. But be wary, be cautious.

Enthralling – ever evolving in iconographic cultural symbols – intricate marks of beauty refined over eons.

Arrow, bow, spear, drum, the things created, instruments to be in the world.

Then finally all is stripped away, the players with offerings of small lights.

Exquisite priestess of movement, gentle determined doe, treated with reverence as should be, adorned with hat and cape. Speaks, face shining with the sweat of effort, the truth of it all in voices from the ancients passing through her to the young ones to follow.

She gathers the precious taonga and passes them on.

All is right and good. As long as we pay attention.


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