by Olivia Davies
Olivia C. Davies is an independent dance artist of mixed heritage who weaves stories of transformation through Contemporary Aboriginal Dance and Theatre. Davies combines movement, music, and projection to weave the threads of memory and understanding into a unique tapestry of recognition. She has worked with Raven Spirit Dance, Body Narratives Collective, and co-founded MataDanZe Collective where she developed repertoire and facilitated movement workshops in Canada and Venezuela. Her independent contemporary choreography has been showcased in fashion shows, music videos, gala presentations and other avant-garde collaborations including duets with live accompaniment and story-telling solos. Davies formally trained at York University.
Conversation is a multi-media dance-theatre production that tells the story of my personal legacy. It incorporates traditional and contemporary dance vocabulary, story-telling narrative, folk music, electronic soundscape, projected image, and set design to create an experience of magic and mystery. Mythic characters of my ancestral lineage are resurrected in the performance space through the use of gestural language, drama, and play.
This solo has been developed as the vehicle I drive to navigate the winding roads of memory lane. Taking my lack of knowledge regarding my family’s ancestry as point of departure, the resulting production developed through intensive solo exploration on themes of belonging, mystery, mortality, and personal legacy.
Since participating in the “Arrivals Project”, the storytelling workshop hosted by urban ink productions in July 2012, I have been uncovering the story of my heritage. In the workshop, I was invited to conduct investigative research into my ancestry and journal my findings in order to eventually embody the spirit of my ancestors. I continue the research today by interviewing living relatives, collecting old photos and letters, asking for stories and journaling my process. Starting in July 2013 I have been developing the solo in studio. When I do embody the spirits of my ancestors, I make sure I have asked their permission first by setting out with a silent prayer giving thanks and praise for the chance to work with them. Then I delineate the space that I’ll be working in by squaring off all four directions. It’s a simple ceremony that sets the tone for what happens next. I won’t give it all away, but essentially the embodiment means I give myself over to be a vessel for the energies that want to move through the space.
I tend to bring water imagery into my work. As an element associated with the emotional landscape it keeps me moving deeper into the aspects of my soul that are usually hidden beneath the surface.
I’m inspired by the work of electronic music makers, especially the Sunshine Coast brothers known as Daega Sound. Their bass rhythms and drum lines give me the sense of lands in motion and tides shifting. I tend to bring water imagery into my work. As an element associated with the emotional landscape it keeps me moving deeper into the aspects of my soul that are usually hidden beneath the surface.
Another artist I connect to in this solo is Brescia Birdthroat Bloodbeard. She is an acapella folk singer from Toronto who writes poetic lyrics like the one that inspired the original choreography for a section called “Grace of this Movement”. Once again, water imagery surfaces in the lyric that goes like this:
“Well, I swapped spit with the River that runs to the Sea. And the Air tasted different pumping inside of me.”
By undergoing this transformative research and development, I have grounded my artistic vision so that I may move ahead in my artistic practice with confidence. By developing my skills as an artist who weaves stories of transformation, I am gaining important perspective in the ways we as a society can tap into our ancestral roots to gain better understanding of our future.
The age-old practice of storytelling to share lessons and impart wisdom is an important part of Aboriginal heritage.
This project explores the process by which we can know who we are now by understanding where we come from; tools with which we can navigate where we are going. I believe these tools provide understanding and reconciliation. The age-old practice of storytelling to share lessons and impart wisdom is an important part of Aboriginal heritage. It is the way we have learned where to go, when to go, and why we need to keep going. I’m one of many young people today who feel far removed from our heritage. We are searching for the missing links to our past. We yearn for the sense of ceremony that was part of daily life.
As a descendent of mixed ancestry, I am made increasingly aware of what legacy has been passed on to me as I learn who they were. My grandfather, Dave Davies, was an early Canadian radio legend. His voice was discovered by chance and he rolled with the momentum that carried his songs far and wide. He didn’t live long enough to share his story with me. I’m uncovering the roots of my own creative spirit today as I find out who he was and how he changed the world in his own way.
I believe it is my responsibility as an artist to develop my storytelling talents so that I may share this story with the world. My artistic practice shapes the way I view the world around me. It gives me the tools I need to identify the way I can positively impact change in my society. Conversation connects me to my ancestors. I have learned a lot along the way.
Conversation will be participating in the Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance as part of the Mixed Bill program Edge Up. July 11