In 2011 I was contacted by Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA) (www.nativeearth.ca) in Toronto and asked to do a fancy shawl demonstration for animators that were working on a Sky Woman Animation at Seneca@York. I was told the animation would be used for an online video game about the creation story featuring Sky Woman.
I was totally thrilled about the project. But as a dancer I had no idea what to expect as this was my first time involved in something like this!
Once I arrived at Seneca@York I had to look for the animation studio. I have to admit I had no idea what I was looking for I was even wondering if they would be putting those little stickers all over me (motion sensors).
Instead, I arrived at a small classroom with a small circle of easel desks and some yoga mats laid out in the middle of the room. The four animators were sitting around enjoying a coffee... Uhh, I forgot to mention I was a little late after going to the wrong campus first! (Why me?)
I was welcomed in and needless to say everyone was ready to get to work... I put on the beautiful shawl that Shannon from NEPA had let me use for the project. The shawl was made by dancer and designer Deanne Hupfield (http://www.deannehupfield.com/). The lead animator asked me to do a few poses with the shawl and I started to explain the meanings behind the dance all the while holding up the shawl at different angles for thirty second intervals which was quite the arm workout. The animators were mostly silent and focused on their sketches. Every now and then asking questions about me, Native dance and powwows.
During a break I got to take a look at some of the sketches. I was amazed at the amount of talent in the room. The sketches were varied in color style and medium. Some used watercolor, pastel, pencil crayon or charcoal.
Wanting to get some movement into the images I was asked to do a few dance steps, stop and hold a pose and repeat.
To get the movement of the shawl I was asked to spin for as long as I could then stop and spin the other way!
I know, sounds like torture right? (Maybe it was punishment for being late?) Regardless of how dizzy I got and how tired my arms were from holding up the shawl hours on end there was always that greater purpose that kept me going. This meaningful aspect of art allows us to willingly endure uncomfortable and sometimes painful situations. Knowing that this would be one small piece to a larger picture - a website dedicated to Aboriginal stories and culture! - was inspiring and humbling at the same time. The project fit perfectly with my vision and dedication to the use of dance, art and culture as a means of healing within Aboriginal communities. Being a part of the Sky Woman animation is just one of the many ways that this dedication has manifested itself in my life.
I was thrilled to find the link to the game (www.turtlesback.ca) on NEPA's website. Instead of playing the game you could watch the video of the creation story BUT if you want to see the drawings from my day in the animation studio you have to play the game from the beginning to unlock the next level of the story. And, yes I did play all four levels AND I had a blast playing them too... the last level was like an Aboriginal version of guitar hero! And I totally jammed out like Nehiyaw (Cree) rockstar!
I think the most significant thing is that seeing myself in the role of Sky Woman (even briefly) has got me thinking of the role of women in creation stories as well as traditional roles of women and the degree to which we maintain this central position in our communities today. I am thankful as an Aboriginal woman to be able to play another small part in the role of creation. This time a digital creation. Hiy hiy!
Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA): http://www.nativeearth.ca
Play the game or watch the video here: www.turtlesback.ca(A partnership between NEPA and Seneca College)
'Cree Woman Speaking' is a space to share my voice. My goal is to spread awareness and share wisdom as I learn and grow as a dancer, choreographer, and woman. My passion is to show the healing power of dance and culture. I love learning from elders, experience, and research and being able to synthesize Native and non-Native ways of knowing!
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