Unfortunately, many of Fredericton’s Wolastoq stories go unheard due to lack of representation in the media industry. Luckily, the people of Fredericton had the opportunity to change that because on November 1st, 2023, Pisuwin, the first ever Wolastoq story ballet, graced the Fredericton Playhouse for all to see!
Pisuwin is a ballet epic multidisciplinary piece that tells a tale of the current status and unease that has engulfed the world. The ballet is composed of eight dancers weaving a tale that blends Indigenous storytelling with ballet, putting its own unique twist on a classical form for an incredibly diverse, savvy, and contemporary audience.
Pisuwin is a work of utter brilliance and a lot of that has to do with the crew that was masterfully constructed to bring this story to life. Such people include the likes of Polaris Prize and Juno award-winning composer Jeremy Dutcher. Dutcher is a Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) composer native to Fredericton and is best known for winning 2019’s Indigenous Music Album of the Year for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.
During his acceptance speech at the 2019 Junos, Dutcher acknowledged all of his fellow Indigenous runner ups and stated, “All of your work changes this place and it deserves to be considered outside of this category, because our music is not niche. Our music is saying something!”
This mindset clearly made Dutcher the perfect choice to compose the musical brilliance behind this groundbreaking ballet. But what good is music in a ballet if there isn’t someone to perform it?
That brings us to our next heavy hitter, Jera Wolfe. Wolfe, being of Metis heritage, is a choreographer and performer who was awarded the Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding original choreography in 2019. He will be heading the troupe of eight dancers performing this incredible story.
You would think that two award winners are enough talent to create a masterpiece right? Well apparently not, because they wanted more and they got more!
The production enlisted the likes of Oakley Rain Wysote Gray, a two spirit Indigenous artist from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, who won the BMO First Art Award in 2022 as its beading and costume production staff. Serving as the ballet’s costume designer is Emma Hassencahl-Perley, a Wolastoqiyik artist from Neqotuk (Tobique First Nation) who is pursuing a masters degree in art history. And finally, Keira Loughran, an award winning Dramaturg with 25 years experience as an actor, director and playwright.
With all this talent working together to produce a mesmerizing spectacle full of electronic sound, industrial landscapes and Wolastoq visual motifs of both the spiritual and natural world, it is certainly a show that you do not want to miss out on next time it rolls into town.