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The fifth annual Matriarchs Uprising Festival takes place at Scotiabank Dance Centre February 13-18, 2023. We sat down with curator and Artist-in-Residence Olivia C. Davies to discuss her dance career, her residency work and what we can expect from this year’s festival.
Briefly describe your dance career to date.
My heart tells me I have been dancing all my life. My mother always had music playing in our apartment growing up. By age three, she had me in ballet and tap classes and I continued taking recreational then pre-professional classes all the way through to high school. I graduated with honours from the Dance Program at the Etobicoke School of the Arts, then went on to train at York University. After suffering multiple knee injuries, I shifted focus from wanting to be an interpreter to creating my own dances and co-founded Toronto’s MataDanZe Collective with Venezuelan choreographer, Victoria Mata. I also looked for ways to share storytelling through movement with choreographic commissions for fashion designers, electronic music artists, and visual artists.
Upon moving to Vancouver in 2011, I found Raven Spirit Dance and connected deeply with the potential of finding ways of expressing my Indigenous heritage through dance. Mentors came into my life who shared their experiences with me. I forged a new path forward that could help me grow into my dream of having my own company. Fast forward to 2018 and I founded O.Dela Arts to support my creative visions through the non-profit organization model. I had sat on a variety of arts boards and knew that this would be the right fit for my aspirations. In 2019, as artist in residence with The Dance Centre, I brought forward the first Matriarchs Uprising Festival. Today, I am excited to connect with artists across forms to bring stories to life. Currently, I am developing the solo Straight No Chaser with mentorship from Grotowski teacher and dear friend, Raïna Von Waldenburg, and looking forward to the world premiere of Maamawi: Together Through the Fire.
Tell us about your Dance Centre residency this season.
I’m working on Maamawi (ᒫᒪᐏ): Together Through The Fire, a collaboration between O.Dela Arts and Pepper’s Ghost New Media Collective and our co-creators. As artistic director, choreographer and storyteller, I am one of four lead co-creators who have been developing this work since 2020. Maamawi is Anishinaabemowin for ‘together’. We work from a co-creative and collaborative intention to find a way forward that is rooted in Mini Bimaadziwin, or ‘the good life’.
This work is intended to be witnessed as both a live theatrical performance with MOCAP technology, and a VR interactive experience that takes the viewer on a journey into the teachings of the Anishinaabe 7 Fires Prophecies as shared by one of my mentors, Anishinaabe Elder Gloria May Eshkibok. Dance artists Sophie Dow and Daisy Thompson are accompanied by their digital avatars designed by Ojibway Woodland artist and illustrator, Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, and their movements are uplifted by the original music and sound design of Michael Red in the multiple environments they travel through in the course of the performance. The MOCAP and VR experience are designed and directed by Athomas Goldberg and members of his team at SHOCAP Studios.
After a few phases of in-development process and sharing last year, we’re excited to have this opportunity to gather the whole team in the theatre and bring all the puzzle pieces together. The weekend following our residency we will share a single world premiere performance in the Matriarchs Uprising Festival’s closing night, February 18 at 7pm.
What are some of the highlights in the upcoming edition of the Matriarchs Uprising Festival?
For our 2023 Vancouver edition of our series, we welcome back the unparalleled artistry of choreographer Santee Smith from Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre. Sharing a solo excerpt from her latest work, Homelands, in our triple bill on February 17, Santee also shares a Master Class on February 15.
It warms my heart to welcome Atamira Dance Company from Aotearoa/New Zealand to share their work TOMO VR at the festival this year. TOMO VR is a Virtual Reality dance film that immerses the audience in a dream space with its haunting tale of life and death. Gabrielle Thomas and Abbie Rogers from the company will also be teaching a class and a community workshop during the festival.
Artistic Associates Sophie Dow and Samantha Sutherland will share works in development Friday evening and each offer choreographic workshops throughout the week.
Our DTES Grandmothers Collective will share a live performance culminating their second Gathering Hope residency at Morrow, as well as via livestream on February 17 in partnership with Dumb Instrument Dance.
And all are welcome to join us online for the on-demand film screenings available all week long. Curated by Sophie and Sam, these offerings each have their own way of connecting to our theme of Indigenous Futurism.
What is your next project?
With a second baby on the way in May, I look forward to one last surge of creation and curation this April with our Matriarchs Uprising series going to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and a technical residency at Ottawa Dance Directive for Straight, No Chaser. I’ll take the rest of the year to connect with my family and prepare for 2024 Matriarchs Uprising and the solo’s premiere.
Matriarchs Uprising Festival
Details and Tickets
The Dance Centre’s dance residencies and programs support artists in the development of their work. Dance Centre membership is required to apply for programs.
Photos: Santee Smith/Shane Powless, Olivia C. Davies/Dayna Szyndrowski