Artistic Director, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Santee Smith (B.P.E, BA Psychology, MA Dance) is from the Kahnyen’kehàka (Mohawk) Nation, Turtle Clan and lives on Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario. She is the founding Artistic Director and choreographer for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. One of Canada’s thought-provoking choreographers, Santee has propelled KDT to international acclaim. Her performances and collaborations have occurred in Canada, United States, Mexico, New Zealand, France, Japan and Indonesia.
Smith’s formal training occurred at Canada’s National Ballet School (1982-88).
She holds Kinesiology and Psychology degrees from McMaster University and a Masters Degree in Dance from York University. Her first choreographic commission for The Gift, a National Film Board documentary occurred in 1996. Santee was a major artist at the Aboriginal Dance Project at The Banff Centre for the Arts from 1997 to 2001.
Her choreographies include: Kaha:wi (2004), Midwinter Dreaming (2004), Here On Earth (2005), The Threshing Floor (co-choreography, 2006) , Sacred Spring (2006), A Constellation of Bones (2007), A Story Before Time (2007), A Soldier’s Tale (2008), Tripped Up Blues (2008), Susuriwka – willow bridge (2011) and The Creator’s Game (2011). Her upcoming productions include: Star Dreamer (2011), Medicine Bear (2012), TransMigration (2012), The Honouring (2013) and upcoming NeoIndigenA – Mixed Works (2013/2014). Smith created commissioned works for the National Ballet School, Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, Dancers Dancing, Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Canadian Museum of Civilization, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Canada Dance Festival, etc.
Santee recently received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Choreography in the Dance Division for Susuriwka – willow bridge. She is the recipient of numerous awards including: the Chalmers Award, K.M. Hunter Award for Dance, Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for the most outstanding mid-career artist in the field of Dance, and the first-ever John Hobday Award for Arts Management; Hamilton Music Award in 2003 for Kaha:wi in Best Cultural and Ethnic Recording.
Her nominations include: Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production in the Dance Division and Outstanding Performance (Ensemble) in the Dance Division for A Story Before Time (2008); Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production in the Dance Division and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition in the Dance Division for TransMigration (2012); Gemini Awards, Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series for Here On Earth in “Dancing with Spirit”; Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Producer and Best Song for her Kaha:wi CD.
A sought after teacher and guest speaker Santee has worked at: Iroquoian Indian Museum, York University, George Washington University, Hartwick College, Trent University, Brock University, Waseda University (Japan), and Benemeritus & Autonomous University of Puebla (Mexico) among others. Under her direction, Santee has launched Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Summer Intensive program fostering professional training for dancers and artists and incorporates a one-of-a-kind indigenous curriculum. Santee is a frequent academic lecturer, writer and inspirational speaker on contemporary dance and performance, Aboriginal dance, music and culture.