To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Canada’s Red Sky Performance, a leader in contemporary Indigenous performance, Digidance presents More Than Dance, We Are A Movement. This film features excerpts from two of Red Sky’s acclaimed dance pieces (Trace and Miigis) as well as interviews with Artistic Director Sandra Laronde and key collaborators.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Red Sky’s AF when it premiered at Canadian Stage in February 2020. One of the last live performances I saw before the pandemic took all that away from us, what struck me about that performance—a defining feature of Red Sky’s work—was its perfect blend of intimacy and vastness. With intense athleticism and synchronicity, the choreography, music and background visuals convey the pulsing rhythm of human life and connects it to the primordial.
And while that all sounds very high-concept and academic, the experience of the work itself gives emotional and visceral weight to those fanciful ideas. That performance of AF was captivating throughout and even brought me to tears.
The segments of Trace and Miigis included in More Than Dance, We Are A Movement effectively convey the fluidity and kinetic momentum of Red Sky’s work. Each offers a glimpse into Anishinaabe origin stories, placing humanity within a larger context of life cycles and cosmic forces.
The interviews are set against video footage of natural phenomena like cloud formations and lava flows. By inserting revealing cutaways to the set-up of these shots, we can see that the were achieved in-camera rather than with green-screen compositing. Placing the speaker in front of a background projection that exists within the same physical space gives the effect an organic, authentic feel.
In discussing her intention to explore the intersections of dance, music, image and culture in a form that feels expansive and elevating, Laronde reveals her determination to have the audience “walk out feeling larger than when they came in.” Listening to her articulate her creative goals, I realized just how successful she has been. The work fosters an awareness of our fleshy reality and grounds us firmly within an ever-evolving cosmic event that began long before humanity and will continue far past us.
Laronde also reminds us that Indigenous cultural expression—dance, music, ceremonies—were once illegal under colonial oppression. Within this context, Red Sky’s contribution to Canada’s artistic landscape is essential. Drawing on the land itself for inspiration, these origin stories represent a vital and underrepresented perspective in our culture, where the Greek and Roman mythos dominates.
Though the filmed dance segments effectively convey their artistry and accomplishment, I succumbed to an increasingly painful yearning for in-person presentation. Streaming content fills some emotional and financial need, of course, but it has, for the most part, been disheartening to me.
This presentation certainly isn’t striving to satisfy that hunger for theatrical immersion. It is specifically a celebration of Red Sky Performance and its two decades of artistic contribution. But even so, the performance clips poke at a deep and festering ache. I was reminded of what a screen cannot properly convey: the beautiful intimacy of a shared physical space.
Dance especially is so physically demanding; bearing witness to the strained muscles and sweat makes you deeply aware of what it costs a performer to take you to some sacred place. And the performer, in that shared space, can feel the impact of their efforts.
If you haven’t experienced Red Sky Performance, More Than Dance, We Are A Movement is a compelling introduction. If you are a familiar with the company, this is a touching reminder of their stunning work and provides some insight into their inspiration and process.