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The fourth edition of the Matriarchs Uprising Festival returns February 14-19, 2022. We sat down with curator Olivia C. Davies to discuss the inspiration behind the festival, it’s evolution and the program for this year.
How would you describe the Matriarchs Uprising festival – what inspired you to start it?
Matriarchs Uprising brings together Indigenous women who are nurturing the art of contemporary dance so that it may be appreciated by audiences from all backgrounds. The performances are accompanied by artist talks to provide deeper insight into the creative impulses guiding the creators. Masterclasses and workshops are opportunities for dancers to come together and practice contemporary Indigenous methodologies.
As we witness Indigenous people around the world rise up to confront colonial power structures, I am inspired by these women who use their artistry to hold space for past, present and future in artistic presentations. Matriarchs Uprising creates a platform for Indigenous women to gather to share their work and perspectives with one another as well as with the broader community.
Dance has a way of connecting the human experience across cultures by communicating story, sentiment, and synergistic approaches to healing. I believe dance has the power to heal ourselves and our collective humanity by moving us out of our heads and into our bodies. As dancers, we can translate ideas through breath and movement. We can transform ourselves and become larger than myth or metaphor. I believe that Indigenous dance artists carry an important role in gathering the pieces of our past that are important for our collective future and translating these into the present through contemporary dance forms. In the Matriarchs Uprising festival, all are invited as honoured guests and made to feel welcome to our gathering of contemporary Indigenous dance artists, so that our work and our messages can ripple out into the world.
How has the festival evolved since it began in 2019?
Now in its fourth year, the festival has grown to offer multiple entry points to the works of contemporary Indigenous dance artists from across Canada and abroad through a hybrid model that includes live performances, and artist-led masterclasses and workshops alongside online artist conversations, workshops and performance/dance film streaming. The festival has grown from a 2-day event to a week-long program presenting Indigenous artists from communities in North America, Australia and New Zealand. The festival audience is also expanding with the addition of the online components, we are able to engage folks across the country as well as internationally.
What are some of the highlights in the upcoming edition?
It’s challenging to choose highlights as we’re so excited for all of the programming!
We’re thrilled to be able to share live performance with our audiences once again. The mainstage performances on February 18 & 19 at Scotiabank Dance Centre include a double bill with new works by local artist Jeanette Kotowich, and international artist Maura García. This is an intimate live performance. Capacity is extremely limited and all current health regulations are in place so I encourage folks to register for their tickets in advance.
We also have the DTES Grandmother’s Creation residency which is a new kind of programming for the festival. Gathering Hope is an improvisational creation residency that weaves threads of cultural sharing and intergenerational knowledge with Vancouver Downtown Eastside community artists Dalannah Gail Bowen, Rosemary Georgeson, Savannah Walling, and Sharon Jinkerson-Brass along with Maura García, Rianne Svelnis, Ziyian Kwan, and myself. These artists will gather each day of the festival to collaborate together, culminating in a livestream sharing of their work on February 19, generously supported by Dumb Instrument Dance and Full Circle First Nations Performance.
We have included a stream of on-demand dance videos including works from Christine Friday, Samantha Sutherland, Sophie Dow and more. The dance films are available to view on our website for the duration of the festival. Intended as a way to support the connections across land, and provide our audiences a way to engage with these incredible works from the comfort of home, we are grateful to each of the artists who have offered these dynamic digital presentations to our lineup.
In partnership with DanceHouse, we are very excited to share another digital edition of Talking Truths at noon on February 14. All are invited to listen and witness our festival artists in conversation for this special hour-long broadcast. And in partnership with Dance West, we host a second Talking Truths with a second round of festival artists on February 16.
Both Maura and Jeanette lead community workshops at Scotiabank Dance Centre, and in partnership with Training Society of Vancouver, we have the chance to share contemporary Indigenous masterclasses throughout the week. We are also really excited that Christine Friday is offering an online dance to film/film to dance workshop on February 15 via Zoom.
Each festival brings together new ways of gathering and this year is no exception. We hope that each of these offerings can be an opening into the artistry of contemporary Indigenous dance.
This season marks the 20th anniversary of Scotiabank Dance Centre. What impact do you feel the building has had on the dance community, our city, and/or your own practice?
Scotiabank Dance Centre is a hub for dance in Vancouver. It offers the community opportunities for artistic development, research, creation and presentation, from early career to established artists. It also brings national and international companies to share their work in Vancouver which offers the community a wider perspective and possibly inspiration to what dance can look like. The facility has a history of supporting artists in connecting with presenting partners, allowing Vancouver and BC-based artists the opportunity to share their work outside their communities. I have personally been supported in developing the festival and other creative acts through programs like Artist-in-Residence and DanceLab. This support has propelled me forward into the work I’m able to do today. I am encouraged by the welcoming space of The Dance Centre to create and produce here.
What is your next project?
I’m preparing a collaboration with Musica Intima Vocal Ensemble that will take audiences on an immersive journey through love, friendship and devotion. The story will be told through the music of two innovative composers – contemporary minimalist David Lang and renaissance maverick Luca Marenzio – and choreography by myself danced by Antonio Somera and Kelly McInnes. The piece Where we go will be shared online February 26, 2022. Tickets here.
I will be sharing my new solo work Straight, No Chaser in a creation residency with Raïna Von Waldenburg at Scotiabank Dance Centre in February after Matriarchs Uprising, and in an online pitch at PuSh Festival 2022.
I’m also the guest curator for Shooting Gallery Performance Series #11 which will feature digital performances by Indigenous artists based in Canada. The series will culminate by April 3, 2022. More details here
Matriarchs Uprising Festival
February 14-19, 2022
Details and Tickets
Photos: Maura Garcia by Gosdayi; Olivia C. Davies by Dayna Szyndrowski