Camryn Hannigan, Akshaya Lakshmi, and Mat Coté are about to go on a trip of a lifetime. The three young artists are travelling to the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland as the cultural contingent of Team Alberta North. This means that they will represent Alberta from a cultural and artistic perspective at the Games, which take place March 5-12. Guided by Arts Council Wood Buffalo Program Manager Michelle Thorne, Hannigan, Lakshmi, and Coté have created an original multi-disciplinary performance for the Games called “The Creation of the World,” based on an Inuit legend about the raven, which combines dance, music, and storytelling.
According to the host society, cultural exchange and social interaction are important parts of the Games, so each participating country or region contributes performances in dance, song, music, plays or art. The cultural events reflect the traditional as well as the modern cultures of the Arctic. “Arts Council Wood Buffalo was invited to participate in this opportunity because of a referral from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts,” says Executive Director Constance Scarlett. “This was really exciting for the Arts Council because it demonstrated that when people think about strong arts communities in northern Alberta, they think of Wood Buffalo. This can be attributed to our incredible local artists as well as the work the Arts Council has been doing to raise the profile of our arts community over the past two years.” With her extensive experience mentoring young performers through mentorship programs, ACWB Program Manager Michelle Thorne was selected to act as the Artistic Director and chaperone for the group. “The opportunity to travel to remote parts of our world and showcase the diverse artistic talent of our home is incredible enough as is, but to present and share this opportunity with three passionate and hardworking emerging artists is really what makes this experience special,” says Thorne.
The three young artists layered their individual art forms together to create a one-of-a-kind collective theatrical experience. Speech artist Camryn Hannigan uses her powerful and engaging voice to narrate the words of the story, while fusion dancer Akshaya Lakshmi performs intricate and thoughtful choreography to express the moods and actions, supporting the vocal component with movement. Mat Coté’s skilled guitar playing adds a contemporary dynamic to this piece as well as underscores the actions and moods of the story. Scarlett says that “Team Alberta North has been a great partner on this project and has really helped foster a culture of creativity. They have also shown a great amount of courage in their support of our artistic vision. This is the first time that the Alberta North cultural contingent is being represented by a multidisciplinary team of artists performing an original piece created by the artists involved. There was a bit of risk involved with taking this approach, but Team Alberta North was just as excited by what our chosen artists could create as we were.” For Thorne, the most important part of the rehearsal process was collaboration: “Watching the performers work together, listen, and share has been truly inspiring; [their] initiative and work ethic has clearly paid off in the professionalism and integrity of the piece.”
Hannigan, Lakshmi, and Coté will perform their piece alongside contributions from Alaska, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, Quebec, the Sápmi Region, Russia, and Greenland to hundreds of locals and visitors at a special public showcase as well as two VIP Gala events. The group will also attend workshops led by multi-disciplinary performance artists from a variety of countries across the Northern hemisphere, as well as attend a special guided tour of The National Theatre of Greenland.
Arctic Winter Games official website