Review: MIIGIS: Underwater Panther

by Lynn on January 27, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre (Berkeley Street), Toronto, Ont. A Red Sky Performance Production Presented by Canadian Stage. Playing until Jan. 29, 2023.

Directed and choreographed by Sandra Laronde

Set by Julia Tribe

Costumes by Lesley Hampton

Lighting by Matt Eckensweller

Motion graphics, animation and video design by Febby Tan

Composer and sound designers: Rick Sacks, Julian Cote, Pura Fe, Marie Gaudet, Marc Merilainen, Pierre Mongeon

Musicians: Ora Barlow-Tukaki

Marie Gaudet

Rick Sacks

Ian De Souza

Dancers: Daniela Carmona

Kristin DeAmorim

Eddie Elliott

Moira Human-Blaise

Jason Martin

Mio Sakamoto

A powerful telling of Indigenous stories: gripping, moving and uncomfortable.

Comment etc. I don’t know the vocabulary of dance to do justice to describing it in dance terms. But Sandra Laronde and her Red Sky Performance company is so vivid in their storytelling of Indigenous themes and culture, that while I might miss the specific details of her story telling in her choreography, the message she coveys is clear and resounding. Her choreography and her company’s performing of it, are both sensitive and muscular, tender and gripping.

I am using the shows published description for accuracy: “Miigis: Underwater Panther draws its inspiration from a prophecy in which the Anishinaabe must move westward or perish. It is about the great migration of the Anishinaabe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, moving from salt to freshwater.

Miigis explores this journey, the mystery beings, the rise of matriarchy, and the ancestral pull towards the next seven generations.

The 60-minute work will be performed to original live music and showcases the unique aesthetic developed over the company’s 22 years, combining contemporary Indigenous dance, theatrical innovation, and a fusion of athleticism, music, and film.”

Six bodies huddle under a slatted upside-down boat-like structure (kudos to designer, Julia Tribe). They quiver, poke an arm out of the slats, and stand up and then crunch down into the structure. It’s a lovely image of birth either creature, humans, but life of some sort. A huge moon is projected on a wall at the back, stage right and will slowly travel across the ‘sky’ to stage left. The percussive music is harsh, loud, rumbling, cacophonous—the beginning of the world. The ‘creatures’ form into fish, birds, beings that slither, crawl, jump, flip, swim and finally embrace.  

The dark sky projected on the back wall turns into a slow daylight. Vegetation forms in the distance on shore. Water is everywhere, undulating waves approach and recede. Eventually the images take place underwater as the dancers dance as if underwater.

At some point the music turns melodic but then brutal again. There are startling images suggesting residential schools, brutality to Indigenous peoples, beatings, hangings under the gaze of religious overseers. The scenes are short, quick, brutal and unforgettable.

Relationships seem to form. Bodies entwine. Movement is fluid, elegant, athletic, beautiful. Please see it.

A Red Sky Performance Production Presented by Canadian Stage.

Plays until January 29, 2023.

Running Time: One hour (no intermission)

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