TransMigration is a visually raw and engaging story inspired by the life and paintings of iconic Ojibwe shaman-artist Norval Morrisseau. TransMigration is a dialogue, a response to Morrisseau’s vision, struggles and brilliance as an artist. TransMigration celebrates Morrisseau’s visual language through dance, music and design.  Vibrating with colour, energy, and sensuality, TransMigration is a reflection of humanity and the power of spirit to transform and transcend.


Inspired by Morrisseau’s display of vibrant colours and bold imagery, like many great artists, he lived as intensely as the images depicted in his paintings. His serpents that called from the underworld were tangible as was his own transformation into Thunderbird and Shaman. Like other founding indigenous contemporary artists, his work was a means to express identity, to reclaim strength, beauty and healing in a post-colonial world. TransMigration dips into the brutal realities of life in the streets, homelessness, alcoholism and aftermath of residential school. A survivor, Morrisseau’s themes and imagery are a gateway from the mundane to the sacred. TransMigration celebrates the life of the “artist” as today’s storytellers and modern mythmakers.

The creative team for TransMigration includes Artistic Direction/Choreography/Design by Santee Smith, Video Design by Andy Moro, Lighting Design by Alaina Perttula, Costume/Wardrobe Construction and Design by Elaine Redding and Brenda Clarke, among others.

TransMigration’s score features indigenous musicians who are pushing boundaries in the same fashion that Norval did with his work: Creative Producer Santee Smith; Executive Music Producer Stevie Salas; Additional Composition/Programming Lou Pomanti; Composers Cris Derksen, A Tribe Called Red (Ian Campeau/DeeJay NDN, Dan General/DJ Shub, Bear Witness), Adrian Harjo with music by Vince Fontaine, Tanya Tagaq Gillis, Black Bear Singers, Barbara Croall and David R. Maracle.

2015 National Tour Schedule

February 20 – Sanderson Centre – Brantford, Ontario

March 7 – Northern Arts and Cultural Centre – Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

March 11 – Yukon Arts Centre – Whitehorse, Yukon

March 17-21 – The Cultch (Vancouver East Cultural Centre) – Vancouver, British Columbia

March 28 – Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre – Vernon, British Columbia

April 9 – Imperial Theatre – Saint John,  New Brunswick

April 11 – Fredericton Playhouse – Fredericton, New Brunswick

April 17 – Centre for the Arts (Brock University) - St. Catharines, Ontario


Created and produced by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre

Co-production by Harbourfront Centre’s Planet IndigenUs presented as part of the NextSteps Series 2011/12

Artistic Director/Choreographer/Design/Interpreter: Santee Smith

Design Construction:

Costumes: Elaine Redding with Lisa Temple and Kathy Guitar; Industry Costumes with Brenda Clark Hayley Stolee Smith, Adrienne Baker, Susan Rome and Marion Schoeler; Feathers N Fringe by Adrian Harjo and Jennifer Martin; Santee Smith, Leigh Smith. Props: Steve Smith. Gobo Graphics: Santee Smith, Semiah Smith. Painting: Jenny Co, Santee Smith

Video Design: Andy Moro

Production Stage Manager/Lighting Design: Alaina Perttula (2012), Matthew Reicker (2015)

Technical Director/Assistant Stage Manager: Marc Rochefort (2012), Lindy Kinoshameg (2015)


Guest Artist: Raoul Trujillo *With the permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association | Dance Interpreters (2012): Santee Smith, Emily Law, Ceinwen Gobert, Michael Caldwell, Mami Hata, Arik Pipestem, Irvin Chow

Dance Interpreters (2015): Santee Smith, Billy Merasty, Ceinwen Gobert, Brent Atkinson, Emily Law, Michael Demski, Nimkii Osawamick

Musical Production:

Creative Producer: Santee Smith |Executive Music Producer: Stevie Salas |Co-Music Producer: Rob Lamothe | Additional Composition and Programming: Lou Pomanti | Additional Mix Engineer: Nick Blagona | Composition: “Man into Thunderbird – 6 Movements” by Cris Derksen | Composition/Arrangement by | A Tribe Called Red (Ian Campeau aka DeeJay NDN, Dan General aka DJ Shub, Bear aka Bear Witness) | Composition “Sand Painting” and additional vocals by Adrian Harjo | “We Danced Movement I” by Cris Derksen from Album “Cusp” | “Shift” by Cris Derksen from album “The Cusp” | “Sacred Forest” sample by Barbara Croall | “Bear’s Trail” and “Single Feather: mikwana nimiwatcik” samples by Black Bear Singers | “Buffalo Song” by Vince Fontaine | “Force” by Tanya Tagaq from album “Auk / Blood” | “Burst” by Tanya Tagaq from album “Auk / Blood” | Hang drum and flute by David R. Maracle

Production Photography: David Hou

Production Sponsors

2012 Performance: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Miziwe Biik Employment and Training, Canada’s National Ballet School, and Harbourfront Centre. Thanks also to TransMigration’s production sponsors: National Museum of the American Indian: Expressive Arts Award, Hunter Foundation and Planet IndigenUs.

2015 Performances: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Department of Canadian Heritage, Miziwe Biik Partners, Six Nations Tourism, and Canada’s National Ballet School. We would also like to acknowledge our TransMigration original production sponsors: Harbourfront Centre’s Planet IndigenUS 2012, National Museum of the American Indian: Expressive Arts Award, K.M Hunter Foundation, Indigenous Performance Initiatives (Trent University) and private donors.

TransMigration Accolades

Dora Mavor Moore Award Nomination 2012: TransMigration, Outstanding Production and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition

“…[R]ather than try to reproduce native dance styles in a theatrical format, Smith has built her reputation with choreography that evokes a native sensibility, its spiritual traditions and narratives, through an evocative fusion of ballet and contemporary dance.”  – Toronto Star (2012)

“At times energetic and playful, athletic and visceral, the dancers’ movements become an extension of the paintings, embodying the visual energy, colour, and composition of the artwork.” – Toronto Standard (2012)

“With stunning visual elements, Smith’s choreography is thoughtful and animated, at times a living, breathing, and moving extension of Morrisseau’s visual language.” – Toronto Standard (2012)

“With elaborate costuming and a unique vocabulary of Indigenous and contemporary dance styles, Smith channels Morrisseau’s creative visual expression into movement in this captivating premiere.” – Toronto Standard (2012)

Audience Reviews

“Wow, wow,  wow, hard to put into words. Rich and dense in colours, sounds, diverse mix of styles of traditional and contemporary dance. Needs to be experienced more than once to take it all in. I wish it didn’t end really. Feel lucky to have witnessed it.” – Darryl White

“I feel like I’ve seen inside the man’s soul.” – Jen Davidson

“Your movements and the powerful sounds just took me to another place. It was beautiful.” – Aisha Restoule General

Cynthia Lickers-Sage | General Manager



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