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Choreographer Elle Sofe Sara celebrates Sámi culture in Vástádus eana – The Answer is Land

Vástádus eana – The Answer Is Land Sámi
Vastadus eana – The Answer is Land offers insights into the cultural and spiritual revival of the Sámi peoples. Photo by Lars Opstad.

The Sámi peoples’ traditional territories extend across northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Like Indigenous peoples in North America, they, too, endured occupation of their lands and forced assimilation.

Moreover, “Scandinavization” policies even led to the outlawing of Sámi language in schools. In another manifestation of colonization, governments encouraged Scandinavians to move into Sámi regions. In these areas, Indigenous people made their livelihoods for centuries by herding reindeer.

On March 6 and 7, Harbourfront Centre‘s international contemporary dance series, Torque, will address the resurgence of Sámi cultural identity. Sámi choreographer Elle Sofe Sara created the full-length Vástádus eana – The Answer Is Land as a theatrical concert.

In an unusual twist, the show begins outside in Ontario Square. Audience members witness a protest on their way into the Fleck Dance Theatre.

Sámi culture will come to life in the Fleck Dance Theatre. Photo by Antero Hein.

Sámi mountain songs

Meanwhile on-stage, seven female performers wear traditional  headwear as they dance and chant polyphonically. They also sing yoiks—traditional mountain songs—as a proclamation of Sámi heritage.

The choreographer, Sara, co-founded the Sámi contemporary art collective DÁIDDADÁLL. In addition, she has a master’s degree in choreography from the Oslo Academy of Arts and studied dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. Also a film director, she lives in Guavdageaindnu in the Finnmark region, which includes the northernmost point in continental Europe.

This show is co-choreographed by Alexandra Wingate, a  Swedish-British dance artist based in Skärkäll and Göteborg on the northwest coast of Sweden. Performers include Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska, Olga-Lise Holmen, Grete Daling, Ulla Pirttijävri, Nora Svenning, Julie Moviken, and Vilja Tjemsland Kwasny. Thompas Schnaupp is the dramaturge; Frode Fjellheim composed the music; and costumes are by Line Maher.

Harbourfront Centre will present Vástádus eana – The Answer Is Land at 7:30 p.m. on March 6 and 7 at Fleck Dance Theatre. Nicole Inica Hamilton will host a Q&A after the March 7 performance. For tickets and more information, visit Harbourfront

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Toronto Spark editor Charlie Smith has worked as a journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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Arts for Canadians Tomorrow Society is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered on this land, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples whose arts and stories inspire us to bring communities together.