A production that weaves together the work of more than 50 Yukon Indigenous artists is set to premiere on the stage of the Yukon Arts Centre June 26.
Katie Johnson says Dreaming Roots is a production that’s really been generations in the making.
Johnson is the producer, director of programs and partnerships for the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association (YFNCT), which is leading the production.
In a June 17 interview, Johnson said the showcase presents the journey of Yukon First Nations people.
“We want to inspire the next generation,” she said. The three-act performance will focus on the past, present and future with dance, music, drumming, theatre, storytelling, visuals and more throughout the 72-minute show.
“It’s going to be incredible,” Johnson said.
She went on to praise the work of the artists who worked through numerous COVID-19 restrictions over the past year to produce their part in the piece.
Typically, such a showcase would involve artists meeting in-person to collaborate on the work, but out of an abundance of caution and restrictions put in place through much of the past year, artists spent much of that time working individually or virtually with two directors to incorporate their work into the production.
Indigenous artists Alejandro Ronceria and Diyet van Lieshout are directing the production with a collaborative team, guided by knowledge keepers in a culturally grounded process, Johnson said.
With the lifting of restrictions, Johnson said the past month has especially been focused on bringing the artists involved — both emerging and established — and their work together.
“Dreaming Roots is about how we see ourselves in the present, how we connect with our past, and how we dream of our future as Yukon First Nations people,” van Lieshout said. “This show explores questions such as: Where do we come from? How do we connect to the source? How do we reconcile and heal? What are our hopes and dreams?”
“It’s an opportunity to witness the incredible strength of First Nations people,” Johnson said of the performance.
Along with inspiring future generations, Johnson pointed to generations past as an inspiration.
“This work started long ago,” she said.
2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, Johnson noted. In 1973, Elijah Smith, a founder of the then Council of Yukon Indians (now Council of Yukon First Nations), and a delegation of Yukon First Nation chiefs travelled to Ottawa to present the document to the federal government, a move that led to the signing of the Umbrella Final Agreement which set the stage for modern land claim and self government agreements for Yukon First Nations.
“I think our ancestors our smiling on us,” Johnson said, also highlighting the What the Land Remembers performance by Yukon First Nation artists at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as another piece that Dreaming Roots is built from.
“It was the seed that planted Adäka,” Johnson said.
The annual Indigenous cultural festival is typically held each June (with the exception of cancellations due to COVID-19) at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. While 2020 would have marked the 10th anniversary of the festival, the event was put on hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the global pandemic, making 2022 the year to celebrate the anniversary and being able to gather again.
The festival features performances, workshops and more featuring First Nations artists. As Johnson explained What the Land Remembers showcased the work of Yukon artists and there was a desire for a legacy to continue that every year in some way following the Olympics.
Many of the artists involved in Dreaming Roots will also be bringing their work to Adäka, scheduled for June 29 to July 5, following Dreaming Roots.
Dreaming Roots will also be showcased to 300 delegates attending the Arctic Arts Summit happening in Whitehorse June 27 to 29. The summit brings together representatives from arctic countries and the Indigenous Nations of the Circumpolar Region with an aim of strengthening arts and culture in the north and stimulating collaboration between the arts and creative industries.
“We are welcoming the world,” Johnson said, highlighting the significance of gathering to celebrate the arts both through Dreaming Roots, Adäka, and the arts summit following two years of restrictions due to the pandemic.
The performances at the Yukon Arts Centre are set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. June 26 with tickets available at yukontickets.com
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com