Nogojiwanong Rite of Spring by Brian Solomon
Nogojiwanong Rite of Spring was a full-length community-based dance work for 36 performers, created by Anishinaabe dance artist Brian Solomon as the core activity of a six-week residency with Public Energy. The residency was busy and productive: it saw Brian give a variety of community classes and workshops to different groups around the city and hold twice weekly rehearsals with almost 40 local volunteer performers and a core of professionals from Peterborough and Toronto. Together they made a moving work that took inspiration from the place it was performed: an Anishinaabe burial site that had been paved over to make a parking lot in downtown Peterborough. Credit is due Patti Shaughnessy for this stroke of brilliance; it was partly her idea to bring Brian to Peterborough, and she showed him the Brock Street Parking Lot while touring the city looking at outdoor sites. And then she played a major role in the performance itself.
The title of the work came from the Ojibwa name for the area, Nogojiwanong, combined with the name of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet which Brian re-envisioned through a contemporary Indigenous lens. The iconic score was re-imagined specially for this performance by Melody McKiver (Obishikokaang Lac Seul First Nation) who also played it live.
The site choice was controversial with some but it was supported by Curve Lake First Nation elders Anne Taylor and Eleanor Taylor. Eleanor had been present for the early 1960s re-burial of an Anishnaabe ancestor and performed a blessing on the site prior to the performances. Their good will toward the project was one factor in making Solomon’s residency and the performances that came out of it such a success; another of course was Brian’s generosity of spirit that brought so many people of different ages and backgrounds together in the cause of creativity.