Red Sky Performance: 20 years of innovative works

More Than Dance, We Are a Movement exposes audiences to concepts often minimized in popular culture.

Sandra Laronde wanted to make a difference in Canada. She created the Toronto-based Red Sky Performance with Indigenous art and stories for the stage, rejuvenating a community as a result of their performances.

“[There was] somewhat of a vacuum of Indigenous performance in Canada at the time as it relates to interdisciplinary or dance works,” says Laronde. “[We] have created 17 new original works that have enjoyed long touring lives, contributing to the cultural breadth and repertoire of Canada.”

More Than Dance, We Are a Movement celebrates the 20th anniversary of contemporary Indigenous innovators and exemplifies the 20 years of steadfast work Red Sky has done through creating works of arts, performing and raising awareness. The Canadian e-premiere streams Apr. 14–20.

The Indigenous community

Red Sky’s works have been seen in 17 countries that span 4 continents and they have been able to resonate with people living in urban, rural, and reserve communities by engaging in authentic Indigenous productions.

More Than Dance, We Are a Movement exposes audiences to concepts often minimized in popular culture via artistry, dance, live music and multimedia. Also included are interviews with Laronde and her company of collaborators, and excerpts from the works Trace and Miigis – an exploration of Indigenous connections to land and water, the environment and conservation – both choreographed by Jera Wolf, of Metis heritage and an associate artist with Red Sky Performance.

Despite COVID-19 hitting them hard, they were able to employ 72 budding artists in their program.

These artists had access to opportunities that helped refine their craft and contribute to Red Sky’s mission. Furthermore, these artists have access to the Associate Artist’s program which was started in 2011 to provide mentorship for next generation Indigenous artists. This ensures Red Sky will continue to be an integral part of the Indigenous community.

When talking about their top successes, Laronde reflects upon their first project which was with the Toronto Sympathy Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall: it was a large scale project that did quite well and reflected Red Sky’s mission and values.

The second success Laronde is very proud of is Tono: a remarkable project as it was a three-country collaboration with Canada, Mongolia, and China. The biggest success out of this project was the family that was created.

“[We] were so close and the artistry was so beautiful. Everyone put their hearts into the work and it was such a big accomplishment,” says Laronde.

Due to this closeness, this project was executed on world stages such as at the Beijing (2008) and Vancouver (2010) Cultural Olympiads and World Expo Shanghai.

The third success is Mistatim: a work meant for children focusing on reconciliation. The story centres around “the taming of a wild horse.” It has been a huge success and Red Sky toured across the United States and Canada.

Looking ahead

Since Red Sky was unable to perform due to the onset of the pandemic, they innovated. Producing two series: REDTalks, which focuses on Indigenous artists and leaders, and Wisdom Keepers Series, which talks about the importance of wisdom and culture during these trying times.

Red Sky is planning a 2021 tour of Trace across the USA and Canada for three months. They would also like to return to touring Mistatim in schools and theatres in B.C. and Ontario, and performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Regina Symphony Orchestra.

“We have a lot on the go!” says Laronde.

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