In a unique show launching this weekend, Canadians will get to see the cultural, artistic and athletic talents of the North up close. The From the North showcase is making its way first to the capitals of the North – Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit – and then the southern cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver.
The showcase will be in Yellowknife next weekend, starting with an artistic showcase at NACC on Oct. 27 and continuing at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre for an artistic festival and visual arts exhibit Oct. 28.
Director Brian Fidler said the show is unapologetically and totally Northern from top to bottom.
“There’s a real mix of languages, there’s Inuktituk, there’s English and French. There’s a lot of different cultures represented in the show,” he said. “We’re not making any apologies for anything we’re just putting it out there and you know you might not understand what’s being sung or spoken but I think there’s a strength in the artistry that will keep the audience entertained.”
The NWT is represented by storytelling and musical duo Grey Gritt and Tiffany Ayalik’s Quantum Tangle, carver John Sabourin, jeweller and traditional games facilitator Robyn McLeod and musician Casey Koyczan also known as Nahga.
Koyczan said he will play two songs, the first Northern Delights inspired by the aurora borealis. The second, Sweetgrass, is a song he created while at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
“It’s like an audio interpretation of the smudging process, when people burn sage and sweetgrass and kind of purify themselves. So it’s kind of like an audio smudge,” he said. “It’s got more of an uplifting kind of feeling, it’s allows me to let loose a little bit and use some effects and pitch shifters and distortions and have some fun.”
Koyczan will pair his live-looping and music with visual art created by himself, Courteney Morin and Yellowknifer David Heslep.
Kelvin Smoler of the Borealis Soul dance group said he hopes the audience in Yellowknife will identify with the themes of darkness, cold and quiet of the Northern experience. These three themes inspire the dancers and the accompanying song by Emily Ross and rap by Kelvin Smoler.
“There’s a piece in particularly that’s quite lighthearted and we have fun with that, but then we speak on internal struggles and I know that there are people up North that would agree or understand,” he said. “I guess what I am hoping to do is just move the audience, that’s always been my aim with making music is just make something that people can feel and can relate to.”
Koyczan and Smoler will join 40 other artists, performers and athletes who will perform on stages ranging from petite to grand.
“The Yukon Arts Centre stage is 40 feet across from one curtain to the other curtain and then we’re also playing at the school gym in Iqaluit and The Cultch in Vancouver and that stage is 25 feet across,” Fidler said.
It is a major undertaking for the artists and directors. Fidler has been meticulously organizing the logistics of the showcase with a mini model to map out the flow of the show.
The audience, Fidler said, can expect the unexpected as the saying goes.
“It’s super eclectic,” he said. “It’s mainly a music-based show but within that there’s also storytelling and dance.”
Fact File – From the North artistic showcase
Dan Wade – Jeweller
IVA – Throat singer, poet
RIIT – Rita Claire Mike-Murphy, throat and folk singer
Simon Coady – Cultural presenter, educator
John Sabourin – Carver
Nahga – Casey Koyczan, musician, live-looper
Robyn McLeod – Jeweller, traditional games facilitator
Quantum Tangle- Juno-award winning music and storytellers Tiffany Ayalik and Grey Gritt
Borealis Soul – Contemporary and street dance group
DASH – Daniel Ashley, electronic producer and performer who will partner with the Dahka Khwaan Dancers
Dennis Shorty – Traditional Kaska carver
Kuduat Shorty-Henyu – Athlete from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation
Michel Gignac – Multi-disciplinary artist
Sophie Villeneuve – Francophone folk singer-songwriter
The Dakhka Khwaan Dancers – Inland Tlingit dance group singing, dancing and drumming traditional music from Alaska and the Yukon