Santee Smith On Research, Collaboration, and Creation

DanceWorks’ presents Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Blood Tides in February. The work is a visual feast with imagery that spans the wide range of what is women: warrior, leader, mother, divine goddess, creator, thresholder of life and death, and huntress.

Here, artistic director and dancer, Santee Smith speaks about her creative process and collaborating with international artists.

DANCEWORKS: Blood Tides is a collaboration with international Indigenous women from Turtle Island, Mexico, Aotearoa, and Fiji. How did you connect and come to work with the artists?

SANTEE SMITH: I connected with collaborators through my Indigenous arts and dance networks. From the beginning, I was seeking Indigenous womyn artists, academics and activists working to restore sacred feminine and pre-colonial knowledges of womyn. I basically sought out womyn who question and challenge the status quo and patriarchal systemic beliefs regarding the diminishment of her power and position. It was also important for me to work inter-generationally as Blood Tides supports womyn from teens to sixties – womyn in all of her seasons are acknowledged.

DANCEWORKS: Blood Tides is the second production in the triptych performance series: Re-Quickening, Blood Tides, and Skennen, all created through Indigenous process and from a Konkwehon:we (Indigenous woman’s) perspective and research. Can you tell us more about this triptych?

SANTEE SMITH: Within the triptych series Re-Quickening (2016) focused on “reasons and results” of trauma on Indigenous womyn. Blood Tides (2018) explores embodied actions for “dealing and healing” from trauma through restoration of rites of passage and re-establishing sacred alignments from cosmos to womb. Skennen (2020) explores early relationship building, dismantling of patriarchy, and restoration of balance in self, family and community. Skennen will be a work for young audiences.

Created from land, dialogue, dream, and active remembering, we privilege her voice, body, experiences, sacred connections and recover the sleeping practices and narratives that represent her complexity. She is gentle, fierce, nurturing, warrior, divine, and human. She has always navigated life/death through her womb.

DANCEWORKS: Can you share some insight about the title Blood Tides? How did you decide on this title for the work?

SANTEE SMITH: The title is representative of the cycling of feminine powers from our blood waters, and cosmic connection to Moon energies that regulate the waters of the Mother Earth and womb. I conducted quite a bit of research development with Ngāhuia Murphy in Aotearoa. Her book, Te Awa Atua – Menstruation in a Pre-colonial Māori World was a huge inspiration and exactly what I was interested in for the triptych series. It was through this that the title was realized. I love and want to share this quote by Ngāhuia about Blood Tides:

“When we bleed we retreat into ceremony, coming into union with our matrilineal lines. Our blood assures the continuation of our Tribal Nations. Our blood is a ritual of purification and renewal. Through the blood we shed the trauma of our colonial histories and activate our ancient relationships with female deities of the earth, water, winds, fire and sky. We call them all in through Blood Tides, waking the sacred teachings that will feed our spirits and return us to wholeness. Women are the cradle of the generations, the temple of humanity, the first territory. When we heal and empower ourselves we liberate the people.”

DanceWorks will present Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s Blood Tides February 14-16, 2019 at the Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto. Tickets are available here for evening performances.

Interested in tickets for the Student Matinee on February 14 at 12:30pm? Email for more information.


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