PuSh Fest –“Aalaapi” – Experiencing Inuit life through the art of listening

PuSh Fest -“Aalaapi”

“The audience will feel they are foreigners thrown into a northern village. Not everything is given to them right away. It is a show about the art of listening. If people slow down their rhythm, they can get access to the culture,” says Laurence Dauphinais, director of Aalaapi.

Aalaapi is a collaborative multilingual radio-theatre project that takes the audience on a rare sonic trip to experience modern Inuit life. In Inuktitut, ‘aalaapi’ means creating silence so beauty can be heard.

The show will be presented both live and through streaming as part of the ongoing PuSh Festival that runs until Feb. 6.

Radio documentary meets live theatre

The show is a hybrid between a sound documentary of the daily lives of five Inuit women and the live performance of two plus the multimedia component that allows the audience to understand it in their own language – Inuktitut, English or French.

“The soundscape is completely 360. The audience will be really immersed in the North. The medium of sound leaves a lot of space for imagination, particularly in delicate areas where people might have a lot of preconceived ideas. Sound is a great way to open new territories for understanding,” Dauphinais explains.

She and fellow sound artist Marie-Laurence Rancourt started working on the project in 2018, first creating the sound documentary and then extending it to stage performance.

“It took maybe a year and a half. It is a challenge to have non-Inuit and Inuit collaborators working together. I also have to rethink radio and theatre-making to not recreate relationships about dominations that have existed historically,” Dauphinais says.

She adds that she tried her best to make sure there is narrative sovereignty, that the young Inuit women could really have a say in the creation.

“The tone of the documentary is the tone of everyday lives. We are not there to bring up the trauma of the past or the trauma they are still experiencing,” says Dauphinais. “We want to give them space to say what they care about. It is a portrait of their modern community today.”

According to the director, radio holds a central role in communication in the North. The Inuit communities created a vast radio network in their own language in the 1970s, and it became the social link within the community and between the different communities.

“It is in every household. Radio is where people communicate about their daily lives. They play bingo and they even have their political meetings on the radio,” she says.

Dauphinais adds that she learnt so much of the Inuit culture through their voices, and also through what they don’t say.

“They are less confrontational about certain things. That is part of the work dominant culture needs to do, towards cultures that are not,” she says.

A curious and probing artist

For Dauphinais, it was curiosity as well as a great ignorance towards the North that motivated her to create this project.

Laurence Dauphinais, director of Aalaapi.| Photo by Anne-Marie Baribeau

“As Canadians, we say we are people of the North but are we? We live in this tiny sliver of land, and the rest we don’t even know much. We don’t know about the people who live there. We have ideas that are very often stereotypes,” she says.

As a multidisciplinary creator, Dauphinais wears many hats and keeps evolving. She is an actor, author, director as well as a musician. Her previous theatre projects, In order to join me in the cloud and Siri, explored bigger questions about technology, identity and humanity.

“In the past, I kind of positioned myself as a counterpoint. If the pendulum has gone so far in one direction, I want to go the other direction. As I get older, my motor becomes more and more intimate,” she says. “There is something in my work that always comes back, which is identity. The way I approach it, I am going to try to find a way that is not expected or in a terminology that we don’t hear every day.”

Aalaapi, she says, is an encounter that they want to create for the audience and they can draw whatever message they want, and that is the closest representation of the diversity of people and their experiences.

PuSh Festival – interdisciplinary and diverse at heart

Diversity in language, experience and perspective is at the heart of this year’s PuSh Festival, with a special focus on multilingual performance works.

“We have a panel discussion on the theme of multilingual creations. We also have a residence program called DBLSPK which we co-produce with the local rice & beans theatre. We are hosting an artist, Howard Dai. The focus is for multilingual creation, and we will be showcasing his piece, Pineapple Bun,” says Gabrielle Martin, director of programming for the festival.

According to Martin, PuSh Festival is curated internationally in scope and serves as an interdisciplinary artistic platform.

“We don’t try to box artists into dance or theatre. We want to embrace what could happen in the in-between spaces,” she says. “The festival really has a goal to be a cultural accelerator, to be presenting the kind of work that gets people thinking, that gets people to have the kind of the conversation that needs to happen, and that gives insights to different perspectives.”

Martin adds that each performance this year offers a unique experience: Violette combines theatre and VR for multi-dimensional storytelling; I swallowed a moon made of iron mixes music and poetry for deep emotional impacts; and How to fail as a pop star is a funny and uplifting biographic work by trans artist Vivek Shraya.

The festival will also present an exciting dance performance from the UK, Born to Manifest, which features an all-black cast and a mix of krump and urban dance styles.

“It is definitely a challenging time to be presenting live performing arts, but we do believe that art is essential, and we continue to work to create the opportunities for artists to do what they do best,” says Martin. “We offer shows streaming on-demand as well as with selected time slots, whether people are more comfortable viewing at home or go with their own bubble.”

For more information visit: www.pushfestival.ca