Canadian Stage Interviews Sandra Laronde
The remarkable journey of the Anishinaabe presented through Miigis: Underwater Panther reveals the power of nature and the rise of matriarchy, travelling from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Lakes through a spectacular fusion of dance and theatrical innovation.
We're excited to welcome Miigis and their incredible ensemble of movement storytellers to the Berkeley Street Theatre this January, directed and choreographed by Sandra Laronde in collaboration with the Performers. Sandra is the artistic director and founder of Red Sky Performance, Canada's leading company of contemporary Indigenous performances.
– NOW Magazine
In this edition of CS Grid, we interview Sandra to learn more about the creation of Miigis, the importance of presenting this production, what audiences can expect, and the future of Red Sky.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Sandra Laronde, and I'm from the People of the Deep Water – Teme-Augama Anishinaabe in Temagami, Ontario. My company Red Sky Performance is based in Toronto.
What is Miigis: Underwater Panther about?
It's about a formidable journey made by the Anishinaabe. A prophet had summoned the Anishinaabe to move west or perish. This new work is about that journey where we will meet Anishinaabe archetypes, mystery being, and colonization. It is also about the rise of matriarchy and the power of nature and overcoming great odds to live a better life.
Why is it important this work be presented?
Our stories as Indigenous peoples are at the centre of who Canada is, yet Canadians know so little about the Indigenous canon. At Red Sky, we create Indigenous content, build meaningful engagement and stories, and connect to land through a meaningful, story-driven approach.
Can you tell us about the evolution of this piece?
We are creating a Miigis cycle. I hope to have many Miigis-inspired stories that will continue to evolve from this fascinating journey of the Anishinaabe, my people.
Compared to other dance works from Red Sky Performance, what do you feel Miigis: Underwater Panther represents and what makes this work different from other Red Sky pieces?
Compared to our other dance works, Miigis: Underwater Panther goes deeper than any other show we've done before. It also experiments more with theatrical innovation to tell a story in dance.
What do you want to say for patrons who might not be as familiar with contemporary dance to immerse them in the experience?
We've had so many people stating that they don't necessarily like contemporary dance, and then they come to Red Sky's shows and fell in love with what we do. Story is paramount to me, and this helps audiences sink their teeth into something different from what they've experienced. Also, I work with collaborators from different art forms to tell the story whether that be dance, live music, projection, visual arts and/or film. We're also known for our athleticism in our work and patrons love to see the many facets that we are known for.
What do you see in the future for Red Sky Performance?
Innovation. I see innovation in the future for Red Sky Performance in terms of how we tell stories. Our stories as Indigenous people still have not been told. We see a future of increasing, expanding and growing the Indigenous canon of this country in innovative ways.
What do you wish audiences will take away from this performance?
I wish audiences to walk out of the theatre feeling larger than when they first came in the door. I want them to take away images that will swim in their heads and hearts for years to come. I wish for them to be genuinely inspired and connected in ways they thought would never happen. I want them to feel the deep power of story.
Tickets are now on sale to Miigis: Underwater Panther, on stage January 22 - 29, 2023.
Miigis: Underwater Panther is generously underwritten by Elaine Kierans & Shawn McReynolds, by Trina McQueen, and by Melanie Shishler.