Tla’amin ballet star brings cultural tales to the Kelowna stage

Tla’amin ballet star brings cultural tales to the Kelowna stage

Cameron Fraser-Monroe is the primary artist-in-residence in Ballet Kelowna’s 20-year-history

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A Tla’amin ballet dancer who has taken on an artist residency in syilx homelands is seizing the chance as a method to specific and share the great thing about his tradition by way of dance.

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Earlier this yr, Cameron Fraser-Monroe turned the primary artist-in-residence in Ballet Kelowna’s 20-year-history. Prior to now few months, the 24-year-old has been engaged on crafting a number of performances grounded in Tla’amin Nation historical past, protocols and tales.

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Fraser-Monroe stated he’s made it a private mission to respectfully incorporate the teachings and values of his neighborhood into his work.

“It’s not one thing I’ve been assigned to do, however one thing as an artist that I need to do,” he stated. “Everytime I’m creating, I’m making an attempt to raise up everybody I can with me.”

Whereas the Tla’amin territory is on the northern Sunshine Coast, Fraser-Monroe grew up in Vernon in syilx homelands.

He’s additionally of Ukrainian and Scottish descent and first realized Ukrainian dance on the age of three, earlier than selecting up grass dance and hoop dance.

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He studied grass dance with Mollie Bono, an Okanagan Indian Band elder. He educated and carried out hoop dance with the three-time world champion hoop dancer Dallas Arcand, of Alexander (Kipohtakaw) Plains Cree Nation.

When he was 15, Fraser-Monroe auditioned and joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Faculty, spending 5 years coaching there earlier than launching a profession in ballet. It was the shape, construction and consistency of the artwork that attracted Fraser-Monroe to pursue a profession as an expert ballet dancer.

Cameron Fraser-Monroe of Tla’amin First Nation, the artist-in-residence at Ballet Kelowna for the 2022-23 season.
Cameron Fraser-Monroe of Tla’amin First Nation, the artist-in-residence at Ballet Kelowna for the 2022-23 season. Picture by Aaron Hemens /Native Journalism Initiative

“On a private stage, ballet actually pushes me bodily and mentally to focus and get higher,” he stated.

Fraser-Monroe has carried out with varied dance corporations, together with the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada and Dancers of Damelahamid. He’s additionally choreographed work for the Artists Local weather Collective, and was lately the creative director of the Winnipeg Summer time Dance Collective.

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At Ballet Kelowna, whereas the position does embody dancing, the majority of his work as artist-in-residence is creating. This meansf choosing tales, themes, music, creating and choreographing motion, after which rehearsing it with different dancers.

On the coronary heart of his work is mixing his data of First Nations dance, modern dance and ballet collectively into one model.

Within the course of, he’s made certain to collaborate with different Indigenous creators — together with utilizing music from composer Jeremy Dutcher of Tobique First Nation, and making it a precedence to work with Indigenous lighting designers, set designers and costume designers.

Fraser-Monroe additionally enlisted Ballet Kelowna’s McKeely Borger of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan to fill the lead position of p̓oho, or raven, in his manufacturing titled taqəš, or to return, which had its premiere in November.

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Based mostly on Tla’amin Nation’s “Raven Returns the Water” story, Fraser-Monroe stated that it was necessary to not solely share that story in taqəš, however to share its teachings and the ʔayʔaǰuθəm (Ayajuthem) language with a broader viewers.

“The primary time I noticed taqəš on stage, I used to be shaking,” he stated. “It’s so wonderful to see one thing which may solely have been recognized by way of oral historical past, now to see it remodeled and offered on a stage.”

Fraser-Monroe stated that he goes by way of a technique of self examination and cultural reflection to make sure he’s sharing the tales and teachings of his neighborhood with respect and integrity.

“It’s about strolling that line to have the ability to current the work that’s going to learn the neighborhood, the tradition, and to not acceptable it or be disrespectful,” he stated.

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His subsequent venture, ʔɛmaxʷiygə, or till we meet once more, is to premiere in February. He stated that venture examines how Tla’amin Nation offers with the dying of a cherished one, noting that the neighborhood doesn’t have a phrase for “goodbye.”

“It’s about optimism and interconnectedness, and the way necessary it’s that we acknowledge that we’re all linked. We’re all going to see one another once more,” he stated.

His third and ultimate venture, which is at the moment in improvement and untitled in the meanwhile, “flips the script” on the notion of “cowboys and Indians,” in addition to inspecting elements of the Indian Act.

“Simply seeing what occurs whenever you flip the script on these, and the way the cowboys react to a few of their methods imposed on them,” he stated.

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He stated he’s not making an attempt to be an academic knowledgeable, and simply desires to share his world view and what he’s been taught.

“Like all artists, I carry that to my work,” he stated. “I believe it’s incumbent upon, notably IBPOC artists or creatives, to share your tradition, to teach the folks you’re working with.”

Whereas recognizing that the artist in residence position might be anxious at instances, he described it as a rewarding studying expertise.

“It’s been an enormous a part of me discovering my voice. In ballet college, you needed to be complacent, listening and absorbing,” he stated.

“So it’s been attention-grabbing to have the ability to pull that collectively and acknowledge who I’m, what I’ve to say and have the boldness to say it.”

Hemens is a reporter with The Discourse

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