Review: Blood Tides (Kaha:wi Dance Theatre/DanceWorks)

Photo of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre in Blood Tides

Blood Tides, performed by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and presented by DanceWorks, explores and reclaims the experiences of Indigenous women across generations and cultures. Choreographer Santee Smith brought together a team of Indigenous artists from Canada, the US, Mexico, New Zealand, and Fiji in a collaboration that used dance, video, music, and even pottery to create something that felt like a sacred ritual.

Four women are already on the stage as you walk to your seat. At the front, several pottery vessels are set up on a red cloth.  At the back, there is a funnel-like shape with video projections swirling across.  The women are moving slowly, some of them carrying big sticks. More long, thin sticks surround the edges of the stage like a denuded forest.

The movement in Blood Tides is grounded in modern dance.  It is slow and powerful, grounded and weighty.  It’s filled with contractions, body rolls, and isolations. The bodies make asymmetric, angular shapes.  Often one women dances alone and then the others surround her and join in. The sound incorporates strings, drums, vocalizations and a bluesy sung piece near the end.

I particularly liked how the movement incorporated various props. The women swing and shake the sticks, pounding them into the ground or waving them like weapons. They shimmer and flash like lightning rods, channeling energy from the sky and forming a protective barrier. The pots appear to hold water, blood, and sacred jewelry with which the women adorn and anoint each other.

Blood Tides did not have a straightforward narrative. To me, it seemed like a series of ceremonies or rites of passage. Each of the women went through something alone, and then the other women joined in to support and help her.

The programme has several fairly long written pieces which explain and comment on the creative process and the meaning behind Blood Tides.  I chose to wait until after the performance to read them.

Especially when I’m reviewing a piece, I like to experience a piece without too much upfront information. I don’t think you should need a lot of explanation to be able to enjoy or at least get something from a performance.

With Blood Tides, I am not sure I understood everything that was going on without that context, but it definitely moved me. I felt like I was witnessing something important.


  • Bloods Tides ran at the Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West) until February 16, 2019
  • Performances are at 8:00pm
  • Tickets are $42.25,  $28 for seniors, $15 for students and can be purchased by calling 416-973-4000 or in person at the box office.

Photo of Marina Acevedo, Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala, Julianne Blackbird, and Santee Smith by Semiah Smith