Entertaining and insightful the Iroquois Creation Story comes to life in A Story Before Time. Original music, dance and theatre unite to weave a rich narrative including characters: Sky Woman, Hanging Flower, West Wind, Twin Brothers and animals. The journey begins as a wondrous Sky World is revealed and Sky Beings dance like stars in the cosmos.  It is when Sky Woman falls through the roots of the Celestial Tree to the Water World below that Life on Turtle’s back takes shape.  Sky Woman sings and dances her world into existence as the balance of the universe is established.  Muskrat, otters, geese, chipmunk, raccoon and deer closely follow the actions of the battling brothers, Holder of the Heavens and The Bent One.

During the show animal characters swim across the stage, trees grow from silk. The incredibly powerful cultural story is explained through the movement and actions of the dancers and through the narration of the Storyteller. The exquisite musical score blends traditional Iroquoian social songs and contemporary music incorporating both Mohawk and Cayuga languages.  A Story Before Time carries metaphors, symbols, dreams and beliefs of a people.


A Story Before Time premiered as a part of The Banff Centre for the Arts, Summer Arts Festival in 2007.  The production has toured to the following venues: Sanderson Centre (2008), Betty Oliphant Theatre (2008), Nozhem First People’s Performance Space (2008), Mashantucket Pequot Museum (2008), Connecticut (2008); Dofasco Centre for the Arts, Hamilton, ON (2008); Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, Oakville, ON (2008); Centre for the Arts, Brock University, St. Catharine’s, ON (2008); River Run Centre, Guelph, ON (2008); Market Hall Theatre, Peterborough (2009); Calgary International Children’s Festival, Martha Cohen Theatre (2009); Surrey International Children’s Festival, Surrey Arts Centre (2009); Saskatchewan International Children’s Festival, Saskatoon, Broadway Theatre (2009); Hartwick College, New York (2010); International Performing Arts for Youth Conference, Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater (2010).


Created and produced by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Co-production by The Banff Centre for the Arts
Artistic Director/Choreographer/Dancer: Santee Smith
Playwright: Drew Hayden Taylor
Composer: Donald Quan
Set/Costume Designer: Linda Leon
Original Lighting Designer: Harry Frehner
Musicians: Rick Shadrach Lazar, David R. Maracle, Bob Doidge
Singer/Songwriters: ElizaBeth Hill, David R. Maracle, Santee Smith, Amos Key Jr.
Singers: Faron Johns, Semiah Smith, Ol’Mush Singers
Additional Recording studio: Grant Avenue Studio
Language Translator: Frank Miller, Amos Key Jr.
Photography: Don Lee

Production Sponsors

Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, The Banff Centre for the Arts : The World Premiere took place as a part of The Banff Summer Arts Festival 2007, National Ballet School of Canada, Langar Foundation

A Story Before Time Accolades

Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominated 2008: Outstanding Production & Outstanding Performance (Ensemble) in Dance

“Amazing, beautiful, balance – the performance is complete, it captures you from the beginning to the end.” - D.C., Toronto, ON

“Powerful/silent flow of dance/passionate.  The essentials of all earth birth stories.  My grandchildren are blessed to have been at this experience of expression!” - T.F. (grandmother), Brooklin, ON

“Polished, seamless, thought-provoking.” - D.W from Warsaw, ON

“Historically, culturally and mythologically rich, beautifully danced.” – J.P.,Toronto, ON

“There was an equally warm glow to Aboriginal choreographer Santee Smith’s A Story Before Time, developed in a co-production with the Banff Centre for her Kaha:wi company and given its Toronto premiere in early December.  Smith’s theatrical rendering in dance, word and music of the Iroquoian creation story is her most ambitious project to date and arguably her most impressive.”- Dance International Magazine: Spring 2008

For Presenters

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