Immigrant choreographers honour black heritage onstage in ‘Footsteps Across Canada’

posted on February 1, 2016

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

February is Black History Month, and six black choreographers from across the country, most of whom are also immigrants, are taking to the stage to express their culture and history through dance. Called Footsteps Across Canada, this mix of diverse works, which runs Feb. 26-27, 2016, at Harbourfront Centre Theatre in Toronto, is being presented by dance Immersion, a not-for-profit organization that produces, promotes and showcases dancers and dances of the African Diaspora.

The choreographers, including Haitian-born Rhodnie Désir (Quebec), Haitian-born Rodney Diverlus (Alberta), South African-born Mafa Makhubalo (Ontario), Jamaican-born Mikhail Morris (Ontario) and Ghana-born Liliona Quarmyne (Nova Scotia), along with Ontario-born Esie Mensah, each represent a unique Canadian voice from the African Diaspora, and present dance works influenced by both their past and present journey.

Born in Ghana, West Africa, choreographer and dancer Liliona Quarmyne is presenting her solo work Tide, a reflection on the power of the ocean and its ability to absorb humanity’s hopes, fears, joys and sorrows. She told Canadian Immigrant of her own immigration experience as a state of motion like the tide. “Being a black immigrant in Canada is living in motion, rather than in a state of static identity,” she says. “As an artist, it means constantly referring back to my feet. Where are they from? Where have they taken me (literally and metaphorically)? Where are they planted now, and what stories have they carried with them as they have journeyed? It is a process of always being both at home, and also being completely displaced.”

Rodney Diverlus, originally from Haiti and currently dancing with Calgary’s Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, presents his work for four dancers, Two to See, which he describes as a reflection on things we wish we could say, and things we wish we didn’t.

As a black artist in Canada, however, he wants to ensure there is plenty of room for immigrant dancers like him to express exactly what they have to say. “Being a black immigrant … for me means operating within a system and an art form in which I rarely see myself represented. I do art to remedy this and to provide space for our communities to thrive and be free.”

Both Rhodnie Désir and Mikhail Morris are making their voices heard, as they draw on their countries of origin in the works they are presenting, Bow’t and Dichotomy, respectively.

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