As AHA! celebrates our five-year anniversary, we present an update on our second “Dance For Life” celebration at Immaculata Auditorium on the StFX campus in November, 2017, which was a partnership between AHA! and the Heritage Association of Antigonish.
We began with a smudging ceremony honouring our Renewal to Peace and Friendship between the Mi’kmaw community and our whole multicultural community, conducted by Elder Thomas Christmas. We acknowledged our presence in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People, which is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship.” Mi’kmaq and Maliseet first signed this Treaty with the British Crown in 1725 to recognize Mi’kmaw and Maliseet title and establish the rules for the ongoing relationship between nations. (See below).
In the closing months of Lyghtesome Gallery, Jeff Parker created the signing Parchment, which featured the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty as the background, and an overlay painting of the symbolic smudging of the 1752 Indigenous clan signatures created by Mi’kmaw artist Loretta Gould. The intergenerational and multicultural attendees at the Dance for Life, including many of our community leaders, signed their Renewal Commitment to Peace and Friendship on the Parchment and many other added their signatures when it was displayed at the People’s Place through the month of January, 2018.
We then celebrated our diverse community with highly multicultural dance performances. The Dance for Life program led off with “Little Cloud on a Wheelchair” by Anne Camozzi followed by: “Friends” — Jeannine Philpott & StFX Dance; “Strathspeys and Reels”—Scottish step dance & fiddle with Maureen and James Fraser: Lyrical dance “Imagine” by Amaya Benoit & Audrey Cochrane; Smith Highland Dancers — 1) Yashita Ghore, Solo: 2) Connor Fraser & Ruthie Stanley-Blackwell; Contemporary African Dance — Liliona Quarmyne; Traditional Indian “Garbha” Dance — Sarita Ghore & Gayathri Vikram; Nia—gentle mind body movement— Kate Georgallas & Friends; “The Gift of Friendship” — L’Arche Creative Dance Group, Hearts & Hands; and finally the Fusion Dance of Nations — 2017 Coady Diploma Participants
On the following day, we held an art and activism workshop also in Immaculata Auditoriu, facilitated by contemporary African dancer and choreographer, Liliona Quarmyne. She shared the dynamic process around a resistance dance-drama created by women in Ada, Ghana, as part of their struggle to reclaim communal access to the Songor Salt Lagoon. We explored the possibilities for a similar process in Antigonish.
Dorothy Lander and John Graham-Pole