January 30, 2023

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Harbourfront Centre Presents Ontario Premiere of A’nó:wara Dance Theatre’s Visually Stunning ‘Sky Dancers’

Harbourfront Centre Presents Ontario Premiere of A’nó:wara Dance Theatre’s Visually Stunning ‘Sky Dancers’

Multidisciplinary production explores the impact of Quebec bridge disaster that killed 33 Mohawk ironworkers in 1907

Toronto, ON – Harbourfront Centre presents the Ontario premiere of A’nó:wara Dance Theatre’s multidisciplinary work, Sky Dancers, on stage May 20-23, 2022 at Fleck Dance Theatre, as part of the contemporary dance series Torque. Sky Dancers explores the impact of the Quebec Bridge disaster of 1907, which killed 33 ironworkers from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake. When the bridge collapsed while under construction, the fallout was felt around the world and the aftermath still echoes across generations today. Through the integration of contemporary and traditional dance genres, award-winning Mohawk and mixed heritage choreographer/director Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, whose great-grandfather Louis D’Aillebous died in the tragedy, brings the past to the present in a way that will haunt and captivate audiences, deepening our understanding of Indigenous peoples’ history. 

“We are thrilled to present the long-awaited Ontario premiere of A’nó:wara Dance Theatre’s vital and potent work, Sky Dancers. The Montreal-based company was part of a production residency at Harbourfront Centre in 2019 and scheduled to make its world premiere with Sky Dancers in May 2020 when the pandemic hit,” says Nathalie Bonjour, Director, Performing Arts at Harbourfront Centre. “We feel immensely privileged to present this crucial work now, while honouring those that perished in this horrific tragedy. While Sky Dancers is choreographer Kaneratonni Diabo’s deeply personal response to the disaster, and a reflection on Indigenous peoples history, the work also touches on universal and resonant themes of disaster, family, community, resilience, and the importance of building bridges between communities and generations.” 

Originally premiering on September 10, 2021 as part of Festival Quartiers Danses, at Place des Arts, Montreal, “the epic film, dance and theatre show” (NS Reviews) features eight dancers and a guitarist live on stage, complemented by a mesmerizing soundscore. Sky Dancers will showcase an impressive breadth of dance genres including contemporary, lyrical, breakdancing and Indigenous hoop dancing, stunning video projection, and an elaborate set design.   

More than a century since the accident, Sky Dancers not only explores, from an Indigenous perspective, the impact the loss had on Kaneratonni Diabo’s community, but also shines a light on the strength of the Mohawk community and the resilience of the widowed women and children. The work puts a human face to a story that represents many of the struggles that Indigenous peoples have had to face. 

Alongside choreographer Kaneratonni Diabo, a number of the descendants of the victims of the Quebec Bridge tragedy will be on stage or have contributed to the creation of the work: music composer Michael Tekaronhianeken Diabo; singer Marshall Kahente Diabo; Mohawk translator and elder George Wahiakeron Gilbert; dancer Lauren Ashley Jiles; and archivist Cathy Rice. 

Set, video and lighting design by Andy Moro and costumes by Jeff Chief. 

Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo will also be leading a masterclass on different styles, perspectives and the meanings behind Indigenous dances on May 17 from 7-9pm at the Walter Carsen Centre for the National Ballet of Canada. 

A’nó:wara Dance Theatre is led by Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo. An award-winning choreographer and dancer for more than 30 years, she specializes in creating works that highlight Indigenous themes, stories and perspectives by often combining powwow, Haudenosaunee dance and other contemporary styles to create a fusion of dance that speaks to many different populations. Kaneratonni Diabo has performed across Canada and internationally, including the Banff Centre, National Arts Centre, Confederation Centre for the Arts, Place des Arts, Prismatic Arts Festival, Harbourfront Centre and Festival Quartiers Danses. She was the recent recipient of the prestigious Prix interprète de la danse (dancer) at the 2021 Prix de la Danse de Montréal. 

For tickets and further information about the performances and masterclass, visit harbourfrontcentre.com  

About Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre is a leading international centre for contemporary arts, culture and ideas, and a registered, charitable not-for-profit cultural organization operating a 10-acre campus on Toronto’s central waterfront. Harbourfront Centre provides year-round programming 52 weeks a year, seven days a week, supporting a wide range of artists and communities. We inspire audiences and visitors with a breadth of bold, ambitious and engaging experiences, and champion contemporary Canadian artists throughout their careers, presenting them alongside international artists, and fostering national and international artistic exchange between disciplines and cultures.

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MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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