Walk the ground, share the land

Young Lungs and Jaime Black-Morsette endeavour to spiritualize movement

Artist Jaime Black-Morsette performs her piece They Tried to Bury Us.

Megan Mousseau (supplied)

The body, movement, the earth: seemingly disparate elements, to those not in the know.

Visual artist Jaime Black-Morsette and the Young Lungs Dance Exchange (YLDE), a non-profit dance organization, are collaborating in an attempt to strengthen the connections between people’s bodies and the land.

Home/Body, Home/Land is a four-day performance workshop running throughout September in urban and rural locales. The project is led and masterminded by Black-Morsette, who is a long-time collaborator and former participant in the YLDE residency program.

The program “was a really cool way of exploring my performance practice with a trained dancer and getting into that realm,” Black-Morsette says. “Last year, I did a workshop with some dancers, as well ... (YLDE) just wanted to keep that going and keep the momentum going.”

The YLDE website invites dancers of all ages and experience levels to “explore the interconnections between our bodies and the land” through the pay-by-donation Home/Body, Home/Land workshop series.

“My practice has really been centered around thinking about the interconnection between ourselves and the land that we’re on and really exploring identity through that,” Black-Morsette says.

They hope to shift the perspective of the land as a simple commodity on which people dwell.

“Over the course of colonization, land has become a sellable resource. I don’t think about the land that way. It’s really an understanding of the land as a living being. I think of myself in relationship to the land like I’m actually building a relationship with someone,” she says.

Zorya Arrow, an artist and project manager/administrator at YLDE, says the workshop series also focuses on accessibility.

“Everyone has a body. Everyone can move. Everyone can dance ... I think it’s important to remember that,” they say. “This workshop really fits in with expanding the idea of dance in terms of thinking about embodiment in different ways and how we use our bodies and space.”

The workshop begins on Sept. 9 with a meeting at the Brokenhead Wetland Interpretive Trail, a locale that has personal significance for Black-Morsette.

“My grandfather spent time there. That bog is full of medicine. It’s all cedar, and a lot of people go out there to harvest cedar for traditional ceremony,” they say. “I want to pull the dancers into that space and allow them that connection to that space and have that become, in some way, a part of their practice.”

On Sept. 10, the workshop moves to The Forks, where participants will visit Camp Marcedes, intended to honour murder victim Marcedes Myran and spread awareness for the ongoing calls to search a landfill near Winnipeg for more victims of alleged serial killer Jeremy Skibicki. The workshop will then move to in-studio work on Sept. 23 and 24.

Home/Body, Home/Land wraps up with a special performance on Sept. 30 from Black-Morsette to commemorate the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. And while reticent on details, she says it’s for good reason.

“The performance is going to be informed by the work we do together in the workshop. I want the people I’m working with to have a voice in how we pull things together for that,” they say. “But it’s really thinking about those same themes of what does it mean to be on this land and the responsibility and the fraught history.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 01 of The Uniter (September 7, 2023)

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