A Constellation of Bones explores love, unity, alienation and reconciliation through dance, text, spoken word and music. A metaphysical work it incorporates a fusion of ideas and images that represent both contemporary and ancient existence and connection to the spiritual realm. Two couples weave through their relationship to each other and the context of the world surrounding them. A Constellation of Bones is manifesting in a contemporary form intrinsic and ancient knowledge of the Maori, Mohawk, and Anishnaabek peoples. Embedded in the content and themes of the creation are key cultural beliefs such as, connection and distinction of the SkyWorld and Earth realm, duality of masculine and feminine forces within the natural world and spiritual presence/power or “Mana”.
A Constellation of Bones premiered as a part of the Dancework Mainstage Series in 2007 at the Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre. The production is a multi-disciplinary international collaboration which unites three well-established international Indigenous artists: choreographer Santee Smith (Mohawk), writer/spoken word Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Anishaabe) and composer/spoken word Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu (Maori, NZ). A Constellation of Bones was created in partnership with Nishin Productions, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and Dancemakers Centre for Creation. Approximately 30 minutes in length featuring 4 dancers and original contemporary Aboriginal music in CD format.
Production has toured to the following: Canada Dance Festival, National Arts Centre, Ottawa 2008; Global DanceFest and North Fourth Arts Centre, Albuquerque, New Mexico 2010.
Produced by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Concept/Artistic Director/Choreographer: Santee Smith
Concept/Writer/Spoken Word: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm
Concept/Composer/Musician/Lead Vocals: Te Kupu (Aotearoa)
Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu – Musical Sequencing, Alto Saxophone & Vocals
Matt Hapeta aka MC Wiya
Tickles Pirika & Winston Rawiri – Haka, Foot stomps
Matiu Te Huki – Haka & Te Reo Maori Singing
Mini Ripia – Poi
Maaka McGregor – Acoustic Drums
Troy Hunt – Electric Guitar
Lighting Designer: Arun Srinivasan
Costume Designer: Brenda Clarke
Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Dancemakers Centre for Creation (Residency)
A Constellation of Bones Accolades
Moving to different rhythms “Santee Smith of Kaha:wi is also winning recognition on both sides of the border. A Mohawk by birth, her dance works are firmly anchored in aboriginal sensibility. That being said, her highly charged, traditional/contemporary/ballet fusion eats up the stage.
Akiwenzie-Damm’s voiceover text, merged with Hapeta’s evocative soundtrack fusion that runs the gamut from traditional rhythms, to rap and electronica, is a poetic paean to the mythologies of creation, in which humankind is both at harmony and in conflict with the earth and the sky. It is a metaphysical dance piece that creates symbolic images that burrow deeply into our primal psyche. The dance raises philosophical questions about our individual roles within human existence as a whole. Within Santee’s choreography we recognize actual steps from the Grass Dance, for example, that are then riffed into a whirlwind of movement.
The piece is optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, but there is no denying that Smith’s pounding footwork, her unpredictable spins, her virtuoso gymnastics and her eloquent hand and arm gestures, all build to a work of strength and beauty.” – Globe and Mail, Paula Citron, 2007
Hybridity “At times, the dancing was violent, at times sensual, always skilful and displaying endless amounts of energy and passion. The dancers were constantly performing from a solid rooted stance; with legs strong as giant oak trees they would raise their arms to the heavens and create lengths of flowing motion. The music was hypnotic, a fusion of many styles, with haunting saxophone lines complemented by vocal chanting. The imagery of the worldview, as portrayed by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, unfolded — there were seasons of joy, followed by equal amounts of pain and pleasure.” - Paul J. Youngman, 2007