TransMigration by Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre

Inspired by the life and works of the Ojibwe shaman-artist Norval Morrisseau, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s TransMigration will sweep you away on Saturday, March 28th through dance, music and stunning visuals that reflect one of Canada’s most loved artists.

Known as the “Picasso of the North”, Morrisseau’s art is characterized by thick black outlines and bright colours.  His works depict the legends of his people, culture, and political tensions between Canadian and European traditions.  Morrisseau first ascended to acclaim in the early 1960’s, gaining national attention for his commission of a large mural in the Indians of Canada Pavilion for Expo 67; but his enthralling story started many years before in Northern Ontario.


At the age of 19 Morrisseau was overcome by a great sickness.  Doctors failed to help him, and fearing for his life his mother called an Anishinabe medicine-woman to perform a renaming ceremony in the hopes that a powerful new name would give energy to save his life.  Morrisseau was given the name Copper Thunderbird and his health victoriously returned. From that day forward, Morrisseau signed his works with his new name.

The thunderbird, representing positive spiritual strength, along with the serpent, representing darkness and evil, became iconic standards in Morrisseau’s compositions. The director of the Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre, Santee Smith, drew inspiration from the  parallel battles between good and evil in his paintings.

After being influenced by one of Morrisseau’s sketches, Smith took 4 years to complete her vision for TransMigration.  Kaha:wi Dance Theatre provided the perfect canvas to honour the milestones of Morrisseau’s life: Residential school, instant fame, alcoholism and his work as a visionary man.  Smith brings themes of Morrisseau’s life to the stage with multidimensional impact.

TransMigration sweeps audiences into a dreamworld and takes you to another plain where you are overwhelmed by what you see and hear,” boasts Smith of the brilliant images that are brought to life by this talented 7 member company.  Included in the cast is a well-known aboriginal TV and film actor Billy Merasty as Norval Morrisseau.

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre is one of Canada’s leading contemporary dance companies, recognized for their seamless fusion of Indigenous and contemporary dance.  Smith’s unique voice and vision are highlighted within the essence of traditional movement alongside contemporary dance artists and storytellers.  “The word TransMigrationinfers movement,” says Smith, “what could be more fitting as the dancers moving through space while telling the story of Morrisseau’s life passing through time.”

With an original score complemented with licensed music from Canadian artists, a beautiful cinematic scene is set for Morrisseau’s murals to come alive on stage.  “The music is perhaps one of the most engaging parts of the entire work,” adds Smith.

“Everyone has a journey.  We all pass through hardship and struggle,” says Smith, “but Morrisseau illustrated his story of work and healing into an amazing world of colour.”

Tickets for TransMigration are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and $30 for students and are on sale through the Ticket Seller Box Office by calling 250-549-SHOW (7469) or online at

A Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre March Break Dance Camp is also taking place from March 24th to March 27th. Running daily from 9am-4pm, this camp is led by Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre’s award-winning Artistic Director Santee Smith. Specialties include contemporary, choreography, traditional, hip hop and drama. Registration is free through the Ticket Seller by calling 549-SHOW (7469).

Dance Outreach Event: Join us for the Portrayal of First Nations in Contemporary Culture lecture on March 25th. Starting at 7pm, this lecture features a panel of six speakers including Santee Smith, Mariel Belanger, Margo Tamez, Stephen Foster, Jordan Bennett and Amy Malbeuf. The lecture starts at 7pm on March 25th in the lobby of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

The Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society thanks our sponsors for their generous support: Fairfield Inn & Suites, Capri Insurance, the Okanagan Advertiser, the Vernon Morning Star, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the British Columbia Arts Council, the Regional District of the North Okanagan, and the British Columbia Touring Council’s Youth Pilot Project.

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