Ran at Harbourfront Centre
Choreographer Santee Smith’s Homelands, presented by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, is a stirring celebration of nature. It takes us through a progression of seasons, guided by the Yethi’nihstenha (many womxn) of the territory, Indigenous ancestral figures forever linked to the earth—its land and water.
With the three performers lit to varying degrees behind a full stage scrim, the live, physical dance is integrated into projected video imagery. The sense of fluidity and immersion is quite astonishing. It often feels as if the dancers emerge from within the images, influence them in ways both subtle and grand.
One of my favourite segments involves some stunning work with fabrics, shaken and pulled about, a visual echo of churning water rapids projected in front. In another deeply resonant moment: antlers in hand, the women bring them together, rattle them off each other. The sound isn’t melodic exactly, but feels primal and deeply familiar.
Throughout, the imagery shifts between degrees of resolution and integrity. We’ll go from detailed representations of minutia—pine needles, leaves, floating embers—to vast landscapes. As we mediate on certain visuals, sometimes these representations become abstracted—amorphous forms of colour and movement.
The sounds of earth figure prominently as well—thunder, wind, cracking fire. The aural landscape is nuanced and fluidly integrated into the visuals.
Homelands is vibrant, compelling and well-conceived. It is an impressive technical and artistic achievement. Perhaps most surprising is just how intimate and immersive it feels. Smith’s evocative movement allows us to forget that theatrical barrier at the front of the stage, allows us fully into the environments depicted.