Choreographer's Description- Kaha:wi
The production of Kaha:wi is a profound new work that bridges the gap between contemporary and traditional Iroquoian song and dance in a fusion way without losing the integrity of the cultural content and aesthetics. Kaha:wi showcases the talents of many First Nations singers, songwriters and musicians who have collaborated on the music creation and cast of dancers who offer their spirits to the project. The hour long production of Kaha:wi includes contemporary aboriginal dance/music performance with a cast of 9 professional dancers, lighting design by Ron Snippe and costume/set design by Cheryl Lalonde. The music is pre-recorded to CD format.
As a Haudenosaunee person I believe that song and dance were gifts given to us by the Creator, to celebrate our lives on Mother Earth. It is what we do, it is what we know, since first we heard our mother's heartbeat and her muffled voice, and moved along with the sway of her hips. Song and dance together are the ultimate expressions of who we are, it identifies and defines us, it links us to each other and to the Creator. Kaha:wi is a dance/music performance that is reflective of traditional and spiritual beliefs which honour the connection to the natural world and the cycle of Life.
Kaha:wi translates to She Carries and is a traditional Mohawk family name that has been passed on over generations. Kaha:wi was the name of my grandmother, Rita Vyse. At the time of her death the name Kaha:wi was passed on through ceremony to my daughter, Semiah Kaha:wi Smith. Haudenosaunee people recycle family names following maternal blood lines to honour the continuous cycle of Life and women who are inextricably linked to the womb of creation.
Music, choreography and production design for Kaha:wi explores archetypal symbols of Iroquoian culture: the circle symbol, Woodland floral designs, images of duality and balance. The project reflects cultural concepts of Thanksgiving, sacredness of the natural world and rite ceremonies, such as the naming ceremony. The movement language for the dance incorporates traditional social dance steps: Stomp Dance, Women's Shuffle Dance, and Stick Dance. In the Women's Shuffle dance women move their feet in a way that represents the massaging of Mother Earth while keeping their upper body swaying to the music. All songs are created in an Iroquois language and are linguistically meaningful to each scene.
There are many people who have passed on culturally specific knowledge that was pertinent to the development of the narrative and creation of Kaha:wi . Kaha:wi is powerful because of the cultural weight it carries being deeply connected to the richness, integrity and beauty of the Iroquoian people. The most gratifying reward will be the sharing of my culture with others.