Mile Zero Dance commemorates ending of Canada 150 celebrations through a different lens
Beyond the Canada 150 celebrations this past year, there were many Canadians deeply bothered by the sentiment that Canada’s history only spans some 150 years. There’s been boycotting of Canada’s 150 celebrations all year, questioning the absence of acknowledging the further history of Canada, long before it was a formal country.
“How do we move forward as a country and celebrate all these things when there’s so much history that hasn’t really been dealt with yet?” says Bridget Jessome, curator of Mile Zero Dance’s How to Say Goodbye: An Obituary for Canadian History.
“We’re gonna lay to rest this really long year of hearing about Canada 150 all the time and we’re gonna do it in style and with a lot of fun, but also being very real about what it means to live in a country that’s been around a lot longer than 150 years,” Jessome says.
The performance piece covers some of the “skipped over” histories, like of the Indigenous peoples who called this place home long before Confederation, as well as some of the more ‘silent’ histories within the past 150 years that are only now moving towards recognition.
One piece explores the black experience in Canada through words and dance. For example, feeling the daunting urgency to represent your race while being the only black person in the room, or the white gaze in contemporary dance cultures.
“It’s not a direct interrogation of Canadian history, but it is an exploration, and in some ways an indictment of the complexities of certain elements of the Canadian present,” says poet Brandon Wint who will join dancers Mpoe Mogale, Adesewa Adeleye, and Lebogang Disele in their piece “What (Black) Life Requires.”
“It’s our expression of the elements of Canadian culture that we would like to be able to say goodbye to but can’t because of legacies of colonialism, and racism, and white supremacy,” Wint says.
Another piece by Lady Vanessa Cardona, “Por Donde Empiezo”—Where do I begin—explores her own Spanish colonial and Colombian Indigenous roots through a lens of solidarity with the Indigenous in what North America was known as before settlers came, Turtle Island.
“One of the commentaries that I will be making in the project is on the peace treaty proposal in Colombia that happened last year with the FARC rebel group and the paramilitary,” Cardona says, “and then how that relates to what’s going on presently with the treaty here and what’s being honoured or not being honoured.”
She says it’s important to do this now with the past year of Canada 150 celebrations happening, something she finds that focuses solely on celebrating the colonial past of our country, rather than looking at it critically.
“I hope for [people] to see a perspective that—even though they think that in my country that there is so much injustice going on—I hope that this can serve to be a mirror of what is going on here today, in this country,” Cardona says.
But not every funeral has to be sad; it’s really a time to reflect.
How to Say Goodbye plans to be more of an awakening than a funeral, or perhaps, the most interesting funeral you’ve ever been to. Many of the performances will have an edge of their own versions of Canada 150 celebrations that they felt was missing from the past year.
Jessome is collaborating with theatre artist Carmen Nieuwenhuis and musician Jom Comyn to perform “1976 Spring/Summer,” a tribute to the Eaton’s Catalogue that spanned 88 years, its last issue being the 1976 spring/summer catalogue.
Inspired by her 94-year-old grandmother’s love of the catalogue, she decided to put together a rise-and-fall piece spanning its publication.
“My grandmother grew up on a small farm in New Brunswick and receiving catalogues from Eaton’s gave her a look into a completely different world that she didn’t have access to,” Jessome says. “It’s wonderful to think about how much things have changed and how what was once so precious to a community—or even, a country—has completely disappeared.”
Jessome relates the disappearance of Eaton’s to the slow death of big box stores like Sears and Target in Canada after fighting a losing battle against bigger companies and online retailers like Amazon.
“It’s just hard to imagine places like that being precarious in any way. I mean, for Sears, it’s been around since before I was born and yet, here it is dying slowly and tragically at a mall near you,” she says.
“Some of the work is going to be dark and controversial and then others, like my own, will maybe have a more whimsical approach, and then others will also simply be educational,” Jessome says. “I hope the audience leaves learning something about Canada’s history that they didn’t know before that maybe wasn’t highlighted this past year in Canada 150.”
Sat., Dec. 16 (8 pm)
How to Say Goodbye
Entry by donation to The Bissell Centre