Indigenous company behind Backbone shows how a mountain range is really a spine
Sandra Laronde of Red Sky Performance explains her relationship to nature
There's a range of mountains that spans the Americas, crossing man-made boundaries and relentlessly traversing countries. But as Red Sky Performance artistic director and founder Sandra Laronde points out, the indigenous view of the mountains' contours doesn't track the political history of their divisions the way the names on the map do. "If you look at indigenous mapping, you see a spine — something intact, fluid, continuous, with no borders or boundaries."
It reveals our way of perceiving land as sentient and alive.- Sandra Laronde on the indigenous concept of a mountain range as a spine
That idea, plus the view of Banff's snow-speckled mountains that lie just beyond Laronde's office window (in addition to leading Red Sky, a renowned company known for its dance, theatre and music productions, she's also director of indigenous arts at The Banff Centre), inspired Red Sky's latest show, Backbone. The performance, created along with choreographers Thomas Fonua and Jera Wolfe, draws visceral connections between the human spine and the topographical one Laronde speaks about, and the importance of that coupling to the indigenous community.
"The idea that there is a spine to our continent is an indigenous concept. But what's wonderful about that is, it reveals our way of perceiving land as sentient and alive — this spine having a life, and impulses that are active, dynamic, and much like a human spine."
Backbone's choreography animates a mountain range with a crackling, popping score and movements to match – it's both riveting and uncomfortably physical.
Watch the trailer for Backbone here:
Sandra Laronde divides her time between Alberta and Ontario. Here are a couple of places spanning the country that help her maintain a relationship with the landscape.
Backbone: Indigenous Dance. Co-produced by Red Sky Performance and The Banff Centre. Conceived and directed by Sandra Laronde, with collaborative choreography by Thomas Fonua and Jera Wolfe. The Banff Centre, Margaret Greenham Theatre, Banff, Ab. Thu-Sat, Aug. 27-29. 7:30pm. Sold Out.