Greenlandic Mask Dancing, Folk Music and Mythologies Meet at this PuSh Festival Performance

Image by Jeremy Mimnagh

By Rachel Rosenberg

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and Evalyn Parry have created an enthralling multimedia dialogue that weaves folk music, storytelling, live video and uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dancing). After a sold-out Toronto run in 2018, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, which is coming to the PuSh festival in January, explores the relationship between Canada’s North and South using personal stories, historical documents and traditional mythologies.

Parry is the Toronto-based artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a queer theatre company, and performs as an actor and singer-songwriter. Williamson Bathory is the first artistic director of Inuit Theatre at Qaggiavuut, and she is an artist, storyteller, throat singer and Greenlandic mask dancer. Together they want to explore decolonization.

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools runs through Jan 30-Feb 2 at Granville Island’s Performance Works (1218 Cartwright Street). Tickets can be purchased through the PuSh festival website ($39).

I read that the two of you met on an Arctic expedition from Iqaluit to Greenland. Did you have the idea to collaborate on a show about the Arctic that day on the boat, or did it come to you both much later?

Evalyn: “We enjoyed each other’s company right away, but then we didn’t see each other until a year later when we met again in Toronto. We describe this performance as a concert and a conversation—engaging the community, creating a shift in perspective. We were riffing with each other about climate change, allyship…I didn’t know anything about the South. We tried to explore what the North and South knew about each other, but we realized quickly that it wasn’t an equal exchange because the South knew a lot more than the North.”

Laakkuluk: “One of our founding principles is ‘Everyone speaks for themselves’, so there is a lot of cultural sharing. An aspect I admire about Evalyn is her willingness to be vulnerable to learning.”

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools has been described as a multimedia performance, and it has so many different pieces to it—how did you bring all of this together so that it coalesced organically?

Evalyn: “Well, I want to emphasize that Laakkuluk and I are the performers and writers, but this was also very much a collaboration with a whole creative team: Erin Brubacher, the director; Elysha Poirier, who created the videos and cellist Cris Derksen, who co-wrote the music. We’re actually all in Iqaluit together right now—it’s the Iqaluit premier next week. We performed it in Toronto previously, as that was part of the deal we made. The show had to premiere in each of our homes before moving elsewhere. There’s no performing arts centre in Nunavut, so we are jerry-rigging some stuff together now.”

Laakkuluk: “Iqaluit is the only capital city in North America that doesn’t have a performing arts centre. Visit the Qaggiavuut Society website. Currently we [performers based in Iqaluit] have to scramble with limited resources, but we are trying to build a performing space. The society supports and mentors young Inuit actors.”

Are there shows at the PuSh festival that you are really looking forward to seeing?

Evalyn: “Prince Hamlet, which is from Toronto but I missed seeing it there.”

Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver

What resources can you suggest for people who want to learn more about the Arctic?

Laakkuluk: “Google. (laughs) The real litmus test is to find Inuit run websites and avoid ones written by white people. Go on Inuit run Twitter. Listen to the music scene, hear the language and develop an interest in the issues.”

Evalyn: “The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier gives a lot of cultural context.”

Thank you, Evalyn and Laakkuluk, for taking the time to speak to me during your rehearsals for Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools in before its Iqaluit premier.  For more information about the show, visit the official page.

Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Instagram @penandmitten 

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