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Photo: David Hou
About the company:
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (pronounced Ga-Ha-Wee) is one of Canada’s leading contemporary dance companies, recognized for its seamless fusing of indigenous and contemporary dance into a compelling signature choreographic vision. Internationally renowned for artistic excellence, innovation and collaboration, KDT electrifies audiences from Canada and around the globe.
Statement from the Artistic Director:
Kaha:wi means "she carries" in the Mohawk language. The name Kaha:wi is an ancient traditional name of my family. It is thousands of years old and it was the name of my maternal grandmother and is also the name of my daughter. This name Kaha:wi will be passed on to other individuals in my family for generations to come. The name is timeless... it spans past, present and future. It has sacredness attached to it and the connection to indigenous history. In the generic form, Kaha:wi means "to carry." Therefore, the name implies a connection to ancient Mohawk family ways and the action of carrying. This, in a sense, is what the organization does: carrying culture through dance and dance-related activities. It connects to the past, present and future, perpetuating the idea of the continuous cycling universe. Creativity and the continuation of cultural knowledge and practice is the foundation of my artistic expression.
About the choreographer:
Santee Smith is the founding Artistic Director and Choreographer for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (KDT). She creates, produces and presents her choreographic work nationally and internationally. She holds a master's degree in Dance from York University and has spent most of her life committed to dance and creative expression. Smith is from the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan and lives on Six Nations Reserve, Ont. She attended the National Ballet School (1982-88) and subsequently expanded her knowledge of movement with a Kinesiology degree from McMaster University. In 1996, she began creating her own choreography and developing a movement style that reflects her artistic vision.
Smith is the recipient of numerous awards including: the Chalmers Award, K.M. Hunter Award for Dance, Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for the most outstanding mid-career artist in the field of Dance, and the first-ever John Hobday Award for Arts Management. Her nominations include: Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production in the Dance Division, Outstanding Performance (Ensemble) in the Dance Division for A Story Before Time; Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series for Here On Earth in "Dancing with Spirit." Her CD Kaha:wi received a Hamilton Music Award in 2003 and two Canadian Aboriginal Music Award nominations for Best Producer and Best Song.
Under Santee Smith’s artistic direction, KDT has created and produced: Here On Earth at Harbourfront Centre, The Threshing Floor at Nozhem Theatre, A Constellation of Bones at the Enwave Theatre, Woman in White solo, Sacred Spring, Here On Earth national and international tours, A Story Before Time co-production with The Banff Centre for the Arts premiere production and tours, A Soldier's Tale at The Great Hall, Hamilton Place, and Fragmented Heart: Mixed Program including Tripped Up Blues (Aboriginal youth commission) at the Canada Dance Festival. She is the founder KDT's Living Ritual: World Indigenous Dance Festival (2006) and the Aboriginal Dance Training Program (2009).
Smith’s other credits include choreography for The Gift, a NFB documentary in 1996 and was an integral part of the Aboriginal Dance Project at The Banff Centre for the Arts from 1997 to 2001. She presented the premiere of Kaha:wi at the Premiere Dance Theatre in Toronto, Ontario in 2004 and the Yoh Ha Hee Yoh International Tour in 2005. An acclaimed dancer and sought-after guest teacher and lecturer, Santee Smith has taught at Canadian Children's Dance Theatre, Iroquoian Indian Museum, York University, George Washington University, Hartwick College, and Nipissing University, among others.
About Planet IndigenUs: A Celebration of Origin:
Since 2004, Harbourfront Centre's Planet IndigenUs – in partnership with Brantford's Woodland Cultural Centre – has explored ancestry and cultures through Indigenous artists. Currently, we're planning a major Planet IndigenUs event in 2012, along with continuous community outreach programmes along the way.
The performance on Friday, May 11 features an artist talk-back!