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A twist on Indigenous showcased at Ballet Kelowna 20th season closing

The dance is part of a double bill also featuring Disembark by Kirsten Wicklund

Ballet Kelowna is working on the final touches for its final performance of the season.

A double bill titled Transformations is coming to Kelowna Community Theatre at the beginning of May.

The first of the two dances is The Cowboy Act by Artist in Residence Cameron Fraser-Monroe.

“It’s set at the turn of the 20th century following an Indigenous photographer… as she travels from the city into the wild west in hopes of capturing on film the last of the cowboys.”

The performance takes a twist on the traditional narrative of history.

“The inspiration behind the piece was first of all recognizing how many inaccurate historical photos we have of First Nations peoples and recognizing how many of them are staged. From there we went on to create a parallel universe where we could fully examine what that meant. An Indigenous photographer was there visiting the cowboys to take photos of them as they were under the oppressive Indian Act.”

A member of the Tla’amin First Nation, Fraser-Monroe collaborated with other Indigenous artists to bring the story to life.

“Being able to tell the stories in music, costume design, and projection all coming together onto something maybe a little bit different than what you’d expect of Indigenous artists is a really fulfilling experience.”

Ballet Kelowna CEO and Artistic Director Simone Orlando says it’s been amazing to have Fraser-Monroe in as the first Artist in Residence.

“Ballet Kelowna is really known for our mandate in terms of encouraging, supporting, and developing Canadian choreographers. It was a very organic thing that happened with Cameron. He was back in the community as a result of the pandemic because he was dancing back east,” she said.

“We started giving him the opportunity to workshop with the dancers in the studio and it just made sense. He was going to be with us again for the full year and we really wanted to be the organization that was giving him the opportunity over a series of three works to really develop his choreographic voice.”

The second number of the double bill is Disembark by Kirsten Wicklund.

Orlando said the piece was originally commissioned in 2021, but due to pandemic restrictions, it has yet to be performed for an in-person audience.

“This is also an ensemble work, but the vocabulary is more classically based. Kirsten really challenges the dancers to really go beyond the classical aesthetic and think about the things they are feeling and sensations in the body and emotions. It’s a very interesting work because it really pushes the classical ballet as an art form.”

Transformations has two shows on May 5 and 6 starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Kelowna Community Theatre box office or on the theatre’s website.

Attendees are asked to dress in their Western best to celebrate the world premiere of The Cowboy Act and Ballet Kelowna’s 20th anniversary season.

Fraser-Monroe’s The Cowboy Act has been put together with the hopes of touring through B.C. and eventually to the rest of Canada.

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Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

I am a video journalist based in Kelowna and capturing life in the Okanagan
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