Sandra Laronde – Winner
1. There are two very different highlights that stand out for me. One is the wildly successful sold-out run of Red Sky Performance’s world premiere of Miigis: Underwater Panther at Canadian Stage, The Kennedy Center, and Montreal’s Danse Danse, among others. This new work that I choreographed and directed draws its inspiration from a prophecy in which the Anishinaabe must move from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. It’s about a formidable journey from salt to fresh water and speaks to the rise of matriarchy and the ancestral pull towards the next seven generations. I took a lot of creative risk with this new work and I couldn’t sleep for three nights before it opened. It unabashedly and bravely centres our narrative, opens the imaginations of audiences, and expands the Indigenous canon of Canada. It was nerve-wracking! I’m thrilled that audiences loved it and that the work received rave reviews including The Globe and Mail touting it as a “tour de force.”
Secondly, I wrote my first novel, She Holds Up the Stars, published by Annick Press last August. This was a huge feat. Whew. I’m so pleased that it received a Kirkus Star Review and was named one of the best Canadian books for kids and young adults of 2022 by CBC Books. I have very exciting plans for this novel in the near future.
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2. I just returned from Edmonton where I received the 2023 Indspire Award for the Arts. This award is the highest honour that the national Indigenous community can bestow upon its own people — I am so grateful to join the Indspire laureate family.
I’m also creating and directing a film called Nimkaage: Dancing with Purpose, which is very exciting. Finally, Red Sky Performance is building a significant digital platform that will accelerate Indigenous resurgent content called Land Dances Us. It will involve film, animation, VO, graphics, and AI.
3. What keeps me up at night is how overwhelming everything is — there’s so much to do! I feel a profound urge to make something happen in this country. I feel this urgency deeply. What should be on the radar of the arts and culture sector is how the Indigenous canon of Canada can grow, expand, and be elevated in this country by Indigenous-led companies and Indigenous artists.