Can sensing stories emerge from someone else’s body be healing and transformative?
In reflecting on the experience of bearing witness to NeoIndigenA, I am reminded of how the body can be a strong conduit for spirit teachings.
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Santee Smith has this to say about her first full-length solo performance: “NeondigenA is my human call for connection, transformation, and healing. It’s a personal ritual performance, an event that I go through which is very much a ceremonial journey. It’s about personal healing, searching for connection and revitalizing myself … It falls in line with a shamanic vision quest, images and symbols having been sourced through my dream world …”
As an audience member I was into the performance before it began, contemplating the assemblage of bones that were carefully placed around the stage, always reminiscent of ancestors and Our Relations, wondering what role they would play in the performance/ceremony. In one corner a skeletal gateway to another realm had been constructed, seemingly of tree branches, on which numerous strips of cloth were tied. These strips contained questions we audience members had written for our ancestors.
As I watched Santee’s lithe and skilled body move, pose, and gesture, I caught some of the story that it radiated. Some concepts were easy—fear, wonder, anger, sadness, joy, celebration, safety, peace, rest, and power—to name a few. Did I also witness a shapeshifter transform? A battle of mythological proportions? A quest reminiscent of the heroine’s journey? A crossing into the spirit realm? An ancestral embrace?
Can sensing stories emerge from someone else’s body be healing and transformative? It can be for me. NeoIndigenA was an experience of body-to-body communication, through the language of Spirit, an everyday occurrence made special through the performance of ceremony. How generous Santee is to offer us exquisite dance to convey her personal yet universal teachings for the sake of inspiring us to make our own healing connections. In sum, all I can say is, “Nia’wen” (Thank you).