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BACKBONE: World Premiere

20 Aug 2015

This content is tagged as Dance .

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Backbone. Photo credit: Rita Taylor.
Backbone. Photo credit: Rita Taylor.

Red Sky Performance indigenous dance company will premiere a new piece, both co-produced and commissioned by Canada's The Banff Centre. Backbone brings together eight dancers from Canada, United States, New Zealand and Mongolia. Two of New Zealand’s dancers in Backbone are Thomas Fonua and Eddie Elliott, and they have participated in The Banff Centre’s Indigenous Dance Residency with support from Creative New Zealand.

This August, The Banff Centre commissioned Red Sky Performance (Red Sky), Canada’s leading company of world Indigenous performance in dance, theatre and music, to premiere a new work inspired by the spine of the Americas, a continuous sequence of mountain ranges spanning North, Central and South America as well as Antarctica. Co-produced by The Banff Centre, Backbone is a cutting-edge new dance work combining contemporary Indigenous dance with raw athleticism to express their power, formation and spirit. The work will premiere August 27 at The Banff Centre.

Conceived and directed by Sandra Laronde (director of Indigenous Arts and artistic director of Red Sky),  Backbone features collaborative choreography by Thomas Fonua (New Zealand) and Jera Wolfe (Canada), with excerpts by Laronde and Jake Frazier. The piece showcases live music composed and performed by Rick Sacks, production design by Andy Moro and costume design by Jeff Chief. Backbone brings together eight dancers from Canada, United States, New Zealand, and Mongolia to realize one of the most exciting contemporary Indigenous dance shows in Canada. Two of New Zealand’s dancers in Backbone are Thomas Fonua and Eddie Elliott.

“The idea that there is a spine to our continent is an Indigenous concept. It reveals our way of perceiving land as sentient, alive and intact. I wanted to show the ‘backbone’ of this continent in dance and music, and that this rocky mountainous spine has life, circuitry, electricity and impulses that are active and dynamic— much like the human spine. For Indigenous peoples, there is not much difference between the earth’s backbone and a human one. We are inseparable,” says Laronde, who founded Red Sky in 2000.

Since then, Red Sky has created, produced and toured original works for adult and family audiences on stages across Canada and the world, including Tono which was performed at the 2014 Shanghai International Arts Festival, and Mistatim which was performed at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. One of only four companies chosen in Canada to participate in an international showcase at the 2015 Western Arts Alliance Annual Conference, Red Sky will perform an excerpt of Backbone for an audience of 400 presenters, agents and producers from around the world this September.

“The Banff Centre is proud to partner with nationally and internationally-renowned companies to bring art created in Banff to stages around the world,” said Carolyn Warren, vice-president, arts at The Banff Centre. “Red Sky is known for productions that highlight the potential of contemporary Indigenous performance, and Backbone promises to be no exception.”

Thomas Fonua and Eddie Elliott rehearsing. Image: Rita Taylor.
Eddie Elliott and Thomas Fonua rehearsing (left and middle). Image: Rita Taylor. 

About The Banff Centre

The Banff Centre’s mission is inspiring creativity. Thousands of artists, leaders, and researchers from across Canada and around the world participate in programs at The Banff Centre every year. Through its multidisciplinary programming, The Banff Centre provides them with the support they need to create, to develop solutions, and to make the impossible possible.

About Red Sky

Internationally renowned for its artistry and innovation, Red Sky is Canada's leading company of world Indigenous performance in dance, theatre and music. The multi-award-winning company Red Sky was founded by Sandra Laronde creates, produces and tours original work for adult and family audiences on stages across Canada and around the world. Red Sky has also garnered an international reputation for collaborating on landmark projects with some of the most prestigious artists and companies from around the globe.

Media contact:

Sandra Laronde
Director, Indigenous Arts
The Banff Centre
Sandra_Laronde@banffcentre.ca