Bearing is a dance opera in 3 parts that examines unflinchingly the intergenerational trauma of Indian Residential School, directed by Yvette Nolan and Michael Greyeyes. This concert dance work will premiere in Toronto as part of the 2017 Luminato Festival in June, with music by J.S. Bach, Claude Vivier and a new commission by Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan.
In development since 2014, Bearing suggests that if we are legitimately committed to healing ourselves and those affected by the legacy of Indian residential school, then its history and the effects of that history are to be borne by every Canadian.
Bearing is a dance work for 9 performers in three sections, each approximately 20 minutes in length. The entire piece is performed on a nearly bare stage, with live music as integral to the audience’s understanding of the work. The first section is set to Bach’s Motet (BWV 227 “Jesu, meine Freude”); the second to Claude Vivier’s searing work “Wo Bist du Licht,” while the third section is a new composition and libretto by Indigenous composer Spy Denommé-Welch and Catherine McGowan. Renowned mezzo, Marion Newman (Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations) anchors the voices and will sing the lead in Vivier’s work (scored for a single mezzo soprano), while Denommé-Welch is featuring her voice in the final section. Beginning with the sacred music of Bach, we ask audiences to understand the implications of the church as part of the framework of assimilation, moving next to Vivier—his own history marked by Quebec’s Catholic boarding school experience, until we place the voice of an Indigenous composer and librettist as the final work of the evening. The structure of the music will be a parallel to our historical journey—settler voices describing a foreign god, then a settler voice questioning that “light,” moving to our own voices struggling to find another future.
When the headlines speak of an Aboriginal community in crisis, from suicide and economic despair to the national tragedy of murdered and missing Indigenous women, our most honest discourse demands that we remain present and that our conversations must move us all forward legitimately into healing and recovery.
Bearing is our contribution to this discourse.
Directed by Yvette Nolan & Michael Greyeyes
Choreography by the company, with Michael Greyeyes
Musical Direction by Gregory Oh
Lighting Design by Michelle Ramsay
Costume Design by Joanna Yu
Projection Design by Laura Warren
Bearing is generously supported by The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and our partner the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
Gállábártnit is an international opera co-produced by Soundstreams, Musik I Syd (Sweden), the NEO Ensemble (Norway), and Beiváás (National Sami Theatre of Norway). The libretto is by Sami poet/lyricist Rawdna Carita Eira (Norway), with music by Britta Byström (Sweden), and directed by Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Lea Fleming. Currently in development, with a planned premiere in 2018/19.
Gállábártnit was originally commissioned by Musik I Syd (Sweden), in collaboration with Soundstreams, whose Artistic Director, Lawrence Cherney has been instrumental over the last six years in initiating the development of this music and nurturing the partnerships between Byström, the composer, and Rawdna Carita Eira, librettist, who has worked extensively with Beaivváš/ The National Sami Theatre of Norway in Kautokeino, Norway. In 2013, Cherney invited Signal’s Artistic Director, Michael Greyeyes to helm this production and continue its theatrical development. The partnership between Greyeyes, as director and choreographer, and Soundstreams goes back to the mid-nineties when they first collaborated on Buffalo Jump, a dance theatre work for young audiences and most recently with Pimooteewin --a landmark production as the first Cree language opera-- that premiered in 2008 and subsequently toured northern Ontario, including remote communities, such as Moose Factory, Red Lake, and Moosonee.
The Unsilent Project is a collaboration between Signal, NYO Canada and the family of late spoken word artist Zaccheus Jackson. Bringing together the worlds of spoken word and classical music, this project seeks to give voice to those who have been silenced or ignored. Spoken word artists come together with a 90 member orchestra in a retrospective of Jackson’s inspiring body of work to activate youth and lay down a blueprint for 21st century collaborations between Indigenous artists and organizations committed to change.
As our country celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, the National Youth Orchestra was chosen to produce one of the signature events in the sesquicentennial.
During July and August 2017, NYO Canada in partnership with Signal Theatre will mount a national tour – "The Edges of Canada Tour" - celebrating Canada's young voices a in coast to coast to coast tour. In select cities, NYO's orchestra will join hands with some of Canada’s most high-profile Indigenous artists in a trans-disciplinary performance including spoken word, film, and multimedia.
Co-written by Falen Johnson & Michael Greyeyes
Dramaturgy by Yvette Nolan
Film direction by Gayle Ye
Signal is delighted to announce the continued development of a new project for young audiences in collaboration with Falen Johnson and Signal's Artistic Associate Yvette Nolan. This sci-fi work is devised for touring with two actors immersed in a multimedia environment.
After a government experiment with time travel goes awry, an Aboriginal pilot finds himself at the centre of the maelstrom--urgently trying to uncover the secrets of his past that will bring him home--and the rest of humanity back into balance.
This as-yet-untitled TYA project proposes to reconnect our present to a historical Indigenous mythology—that is, in fact, a blueprint for a contemporary Indigenous worldview. At the same time it examines how vivid, lifesize images intersect with and inform live action. This project's intended audience begins ideally at the middle school level through high school (Grades 7 through 12), where the social studies' curriculum examines the background of Canadian nationhood through the conflicts and tensions between Upper & Lower Canada.
This production will be workshopped at the 2017 Playwrights Colony at The Banff Centre, with tentative rehearsal and production rehearsals in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
This performance action is approximately 90 minutes in duration and uses digital video projection, paper, wood, aluminum, steel, plastic, canvas, cotton, and wool. Winter Home requires a large, empty space and a number of key design elements, including a 12 x 10’ Canvas Prospector-style Tent, digital projection, tree branches, and an antique, metal bed—the kind used in Indian residential school in the 1930s.
Winter Home premiered at Studio 914 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in October 2014, as part of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance's Intertribal Gathering. Winter Home was presented by TRIBE.
Created by Michael Greyeyes, Megan Davies & Moynan King
Dramaturgy by Moynan King
Performed by Michael Greyeyes
"There are two halves to every family. We all come from two strains of thought, twin strands of experience," writes Greyeyes.
From this starting point, an eloquent narrative emerges in which the author and narrator peels away the layers of a family's oral history, moving from joyous childhood memories, to unspoken truths and the harsh secrets held by every family.
Austere like the land from which this story emerges, Nôhkom remembers the writer's grandmother, Margaret Greyeyes, but it also about the writer's late father, George Greyeyes. Combining text and dance, this theatre work moves through complex moments in the life of the author's father, who grew up on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression. It revolves around remembered experience, a mysterious affair, and one extraordinary winter, which tested nôhkom to her very soul as she found herself alone, living in a canvas tent caring for her two small children.
Moving through the visceral history of Canada's Indian Residential school system, the fragile nature of memory, and the exquisite power of dance, Nôhkom is a portrait of resilience and a testament to the potential of forgiveness.
Written by Michael Greyeyes
Directed by Yvette Nolan
Choreography by Michael Greyeyes, with Nancy Latoszewski, Daniel McArthur (and Michael Sean Marye)
Music and Sound Design by Miquelon Rodriguez
Costume Design by Erika Isserhoff
Original Production & Lighting Design by Peter McKinnon
Assistant Director: Falen Johnson
Michael Greyeyes, Nancy Latoszewski (Greyeyes) & Daniel McArthur
Probing the lives of soldiers over the span of fifty years, from the end of the Second World War to our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 21st century, this work is devised for 13 performers. A Soldier’s Tale examines the ugly realities of war, reminding us that warfare and the reasons we wage it are irrelevant to those on the front line; war remains the same for each generation and the horrors of it do not lessen with time. The words from George Santayana’s powerful Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies resound powerfully in this context, "Only the dead shall see the end of war."
Three years in the making, Signal devoted immense resources to the development of each phase of this production, from numerous workshop and rehearsal periods to weapons training to the very personnel we invited to join our process. For example, choreographer Yvonne Chartrand--Canada’s foremost authority on the Métis dance culture— agreed to collaborate with Greyeyes incorporating elements of Métis jigging in Act 1, set in the Saskatchewan prairie.
Directed by Michael Greyeyes
Written by Tara Beagan
Choreography by the company, with Michael Greyeyes
Dramaturgy by Yvette Nolan
Original Music by John Gzowski
Set and Costume Design by Shawn Kerwin
Lighting Design by Elizabeth Asselstine
Sound & Video Design by Andy Moro
Production Design by Roelof Peter Snippe
Keith Barker, Ana Groppler, Louis Laberge-Côté, PJ Prudat, Michael Caldwell, Kate Holden, Nancy Latoszewski, Tamara Podemski, Daniel McArthur, Ceinwen Gobert, Brendan Wyatt and Jamie Maczko, with Eva and Lilia Greyeyes.
Choreographer Nancy Latoszewski writes:
"My creative process was rooted in oral histories based upon the experiences of my grandparents. Both of my grandfathers were coal miners. They were immigrants from Poland and Russia and came to America in search of the “American Dream”. Through their stories and my research of Northeast Pennsylvania coal miners and mines, which included a tour of a mine in Scranton, I began to form a language of movement for each section based on its narrative. By amalgamating the oral histories of my grandparents, I constructed the overall narrative arc. The movement vocabulary developed by imagining their tasks, thoughts, and emotions."
Choreography by Nancy Greyeyes
Lighting Design by Peter McKinnon
Technical Direction by James McKernnon
Music: Old Home Medley by Stephen Foster, The Poet Acts by Philip Glass, Sixteen Tons by Merle Travis, Bialych Roz (composer unknown), Stasiek (composer unknown), Hard Times Come Again No More by Stephen Foster
Costumes Design by Nancy Latoszewski
Set Design by Nancy Latoszewski
Set Construction by James McKernnon
Dramaturgy by Michael Greyeyes
Coal Miners: Michael Caldwell, Louis Laberge-Côté, Luke Garwood, Michael Sean Marye, Daniel McArthur
Rose: Ana Groppler
Woman in Black: Tracy Day, with Coal Mining Bosses: Miles Gosse & Nikolaos Markakis
"Carriage explores my transition from ballet dancer to motherhood. The dance asks what do we carry forward and what do we leave behind in a time filled with so much expectation? The work travels through my emotional landscape during this most unique and unpredictable period in a woman’s life."
Choreographed and Performed by Nancy Latoszweski (Greyeyes)
Lighting Design by Roelof Peter Snippe
Music: John Williams: Chairman’s Waltz, Philip Glass: Metamorphosis 3
Soundscape, Costume and Set Design by Nancy Latoszewski
Dramaturgy by Michael Greyeyes
A world premiere from director and choreographer Michael Greyeyes and Signal Theatre, from thine eyes is set in limbo between the land of the living and that of the dead. Six characters struggle to find meaning at the end of their lives, as they confront their deepest fears, most cherished memories and each other.
This dance theatre production brings together two contemporary Aboriginal artists for the first time: Michael Greyeyes (director) and Yvette Nolan (writer). Together, they examine mortality, memory and forgiveness, through the lens of contemporary dance expression, confronting the notion that only when the veil of our mortality is finally removed will we see ourselves and each other truthfully.
"Poetic, imaginative." − Jon Kaplan, NOW
Choreography by Michael Greyeyes
Written by Yvette Nolan
Music by Miquelon Rodriguez
Lighting Design by Roelof Peter Snippe
Costume Design by Sharon Hann
Set Design by Jackie Chau
Claudia Moore, Michael Caldwell, Ceinwen Gobert, Shannon Litzenberger, Sean Ling & Luke Garwood
Seven Seconds is a short film collaboration between Nancy and Michael Greyeyes and Cinematographer John Price. In 2010, Nancy proposed a short film idea about a woman dancing alone on a rooftop. Supported by the imagineNATIVE film + media arts festival and LIFT (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto), Michael developed and wrote a screenplay adapted from Nancy's original story. Collaborating with their Director of Photography John Price, who would photograph all sequences on Super 16 mm film--the production team shot on location at various locations in Toronto, including the famous Distillery District in the summer of 2010.
With choreography by Nancy Greyeyes, interpreted by dancer Tara Butler, to music by Ludwig van Beethoven--the film explored a day in the life of a woman facing a monumental decisions. Edited by Michael Greyeyes, this short film debuted at the 2010 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in October.
Seven Seconds was also screened at the Dawson International Short Film Festival in 2011 in Dawson City, Yukon.
Written and directed by Michael Greyeyes
Choreography and original concept by Nancy Latoszewski (Greyeyes)
Director of Photography John Price
Edited by Michael Greyeyes
Performed by Tara Butler
These images document different stages of our work. Signal dedicates an extraordinary amount of resources to experimentation.
A commitment to process means that each opportunity to show the work is a chance to continue its development, deepening the exploration, strengthening the product. from thine eyes underwent a major revision after its premiere in Toronto, before its presentation in Halifax. The three-day run of A Soldier’s Tale in Toronto allowed us to see the trajectory of the work and revise before its premiere in Ottawa a few months later. Our initial presentation of Nôhkom at The Banff Centre laid the foundation for further development at the Banff Playwright’s Colony two years later. Winter Home continues to be explored and strengthened with different performers and in various regions in Canada. Not one presentation of Winter Home has been exactly the same, which speaks to the changing ecology of our connection to the work itself, the territory where we perform and our relationship with that particular, localized audience.
What remains the same is our curiousity and rigour and our desire to understand the work as it unfolds before us. These images are a small sampling of this journey.
Image 1: Work-in-progress showing of "A Soldier's Tale" at York University, 2013. Photo by Brittany Ryan.