top of page

Olivia C. Davies : rematriation

Choreographer / Performer

Olivia C. Davies - Choreographer, Performer. Photo by: Chris Randle


“Who am I as an indigenous artist right now- what does the notion of “rematriation” (return to source) mean to me, and how do I express that thought-subject through my muscles and bones, mind and body.”

Beginning with:

  • A solo to further develop

  • archetypes as sources for images/action

  • audience in the round

  • sourcing from physically rooted impulses

  • sourcing from personal and historic experience

Driving Theme:

  • To “rematriate” is to return to the source. In response to the patriarchal systems that hold society hostage to continual technological advancement and an ever-growing disconnection to reality, this solo seeks to articulate potential pathways to peace and presence that are grounded in Contemporary Indigenous feminism.


  • Track transitions clearly

  • Discern what images are in the earth-space (area covered by the cloth)

  • Clarify use of voice.

  • How to enter at the beginning, with the material


  • Explore how to source material that does not rely on linear narrative.

  • Why and how best to maintain and modify rhythmic structure as a layer

  • Allow sensations to guide the danced expression.

Questions from mentors:

  • Are we audience? witnesses? participants? Do you want us to be included or excluded from the emotions being expressed?

  • What is the minimum amount of information needed to transmit what is going on (e.g. how long is needed to stay in one stance?). And from the minimum what is the maximum moment when the experience of the performative action is most potent? (The experience for the performer and the experience for the audience/witnesses/participants.)


  • The Cloth is very significant as partner to or extension of the dancing person. The opening setup pre-determines that it will never lose significance. Therefore the cloth’s meaning has to be determined for every moment and also its transformation has to make internal linear sense from section to section. This is challenge enough however the cloth may also be instrumental in defining the boundaries of the world of the entire dance. This also has to be attended to with delicate ferocity.

  • And there are staging considerations. For instance, imagining that with lighting the cloth and performer could be so isolated they are the complete world of the dance as if floating or on a cloud. The opposite could be natural light where the dance is clearly happening in real time-space so the “edges” of the performing space extend out into infinity. And between these two are myriad solutions that all affect the effect of the work.

  • With complex ideas that are full of emotional history, how to dance them with heightened sensation rather than emoting.

  • Voice: How to contain in one dance the Crone’s voice, storyteller, natural speech, and pure sound rooted in emotion, and delivering meaning of the words to the audience.

  • Timing within sections: Choreographically how long does an action or a section last to become and remain potent (duration). Within sections: duration and rhythms partially depend on task relationship to the cloth, to pathways of the flow, and actual time it takes to do all the actions.

Strategies used during CM to generate and develop material:

  • Persona inspired by archetypes

  • Action inspired by nature: e.g. glacier, waterways, mountain range- imagine the floor as that geography, imagine the geography within her body.

  • Perform with the fabric; perform same action without the fabric

  • Explore significance of the cloth and how this affects movement choices within the improvisaitons. e.g. in the opening is it skin? a shroud? a tent?; in the central section is it land? changing geography? a simple ground cloth?

Skill building:

  • Deep listening brought about new sensations and sensitivity that informed the work.

  • Use of senses also fleshed out concepts. For instance she was invited to consider what the fabric was by attending to how it felt under her hands.


  • Many opinions and being caught off-guard, can help to identify the most important issues in the theme, the composition, and the performing.


  • To take external comments and observations from many perspectives and distill them into one’s own process and intent.

General Observations:

  • Is your world in this actual time, or an alternate universe? This ties in with characters’ presence and the role of storytelling, use of archetypes, and how to bring a lived and/or inherited experience into the present. Now that you have a lot of potent material it is a good time in the process to decide the timeframe, then the structure of the environment and the architecture of the dance.

Discussion points:

  • Raw: Is there room for rawness in the middle cloth section? (not ritualized rawness) or is that something rawness actually a sterotype? what’s “raw”? raaaaa

  • Venues: Forum, proscenium, circular performance venues- which is optimum for a work has to do with what the creator wants the viewers to be – audience, witnesses, passive participants, other roles; has to do with the public arenas the creator wants to work in-main-stage public to community interactions.

What next:

  • Following the CM, the work continued with designers who helped shape the environment with lighting and visuals. Eventually, voice was dropped and music score redeveloped with new layers to add energetic shifts throughout. The solo has been shared at Dancing on the Edge Festival in Vancouver, and as part of Med’Cine, an evening of new works.

Olivia C. Davies (2018 Vancouver) O.Dela Arts creates across choreography, installation & community-engaged projects, exploring emotional & political relationships between people & places. Her works traverse boundaries, conveying concepts & narratives with creations & conceptual platforms that open different ways to see & experience the world. Davies formally trained at York University, and mentored under Lara Kramer, Michelle Olson, Santee Smith, and Starr Muranko in Contemporary Indigenous Dance. She honours her mixed Anishnaabe heritage in her practise. Since 2004, her work has been presented across Canada in Ontario, Quebec, and BC. O.Dela Arts Society was formed in 2018 to support her in the creation & production of choreography, community-engaged projects, creative collaboration projects & commissions.

bottom of page