Sharing Space with our Artists in Residence

Pêyâhtak and Mixk'aax

Ballet BC’s Artists in Residence, BC-based Indigenous dance artists Margaret Genier and Starr Muranko, have been collaborating with the company since 2021. Each season, they spend time at our studios with our company artists sharing space and practice, plus many meals, birthdays, and of course, dancing. Over time this relationship has evolved to become one of mutual respect, and deeply meaningful for our dancers, Artistic Director Medhi Walerski, and the entire Ballet BC team.

The collaboration allows us to explore the meaning of the history and importance of the land we live, work, and create on, and learn more about the ancestral lineage of a variety of Indigenous art forms. Rather than being focused on an output or end result, the goal of the relationship is to be intentional about spending time together and sharing ideas, teachings, and the creative process.

In April 2024, Margaret and Starr spent a week in the studio at Ballet BC’s Granville Island home. The foundation for the week was led, in part, by two values which had been passed down from family and elders.

Ballet BC Artists in Residence Starr Muranko and Margaret Grenier in studio

The first is a teaching is Pêyâhtak, is a Cree word that translates “to take care, to go slowly, to take it easy, to be gentle.” It is a teaching that was brought in early in the process and was held in the studio for the duration of the collaboration. It not only translates into a movement quality for some of the explorations, but also as a way of working and taking care of the space and of each other as the dancers and Margaret and Starr moved through conversations and sharing together.

The second is Mixk’aax, a Gitxsan word meaning down, usually eagle or swan down. Mixk’aax is spread as a symbol of peace. It is protocol, and therefore when Mixk’aax is offered and received it cannot be refused because of its value. In the context of this collaboration, Mixk’aax was explored to indicate the importance of the land being practiced on, and an offering of healing and deconstruction.

Both of these teachings formed the heart of Margaret and Starr’s work with our dancers, and the basis of the shared language they developed together. The group also worked with a poem by author, educator and activist Jeanette Armstrong, of Syilx (Okanagan) First Nation, entitled “Frogs singing,” and music by Chilean-born, Ontario-based composer Edgardo Moreno. At the end of the week, the entire Ballet BC team and some invited guests took part in a sharing by the dancers.

“I feel like there’s a deep deep wisdom that the body holds, and that there are stories and memories that the body holds that we can express in movement in ways that we can’t express in words. I really love the universality of movement, that if you don’t have the same spoken language you can still understand each other.”

– Starr Muranko

Ballet BC dancers share a creation developed in collaboration with Margaret and Starr

Learn more about Margaret and Starr’s work with the Dancers of Damelahamid here.

Learn more about Starr Muranko’s work with Raven Spirit Dance here.