Review: AF (Red Sky Performance with Canadian Stage)

AF celebrates Anishinaabe prophecies through dance, by Red Sky Performance with Canadian Stage

Red Sky Performance in residence at Canadian Stage presents AF, a mind-blowing journey through dance and movement, projections and sound. Directed by Sandra Laronde, and choreographed by Thomas Fonua, AF explores the seven fire prophecies of the Anishinaabe that have shaped the lives of people on Turtle Island. Each prophecy is shown through a series of movements utilizing contemporary dance and physical storytelling. Paired with an intensely visceral soundtrack, this performance will leave you spellbound.

Rather than attempt to interpret and dissect these prophecies, AF instead chooses to dive head first into them allowing the audience to find their own inspiration in these stories. What we, as the audience are left with, is an experience that wraps around the mind and pulls at the senses. This experience incorporates light and shadow elements, precise and seamless acrobatic movements that flow like water, evocative lighting, and a soundtrack that transcends what generally defines music. AF is an experience that is difficult to define but it is one that travels through the spark of life as it exists on earth, light and darkness, death and rebirth.

The performers — Eddie Elliott, Miyeko Ferguson, Marrin Jessome, Michael Rourke, and Connor Mitton are flawless on that stage. Their movements are perfectly synchronized, mercurial in how they blend and flow into one another. The story they tell through movement is something that simply can’t be expressed in words. In particular, Rourke’s athleticism and strength is a delight to watch.

Equally as mesmerizing is the soundtrack by composer and sound designer Eliot Britton and Rick Sacks, a powerful force by itself, the soundtrack combines live elements along with music by the likes of A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq. The live elements include vocalizations by Jennifer Brousseau that range from a haunting wail in the distance, a constant throbbing breath, to mournful weeping. Percussion by Joyce To that is at times a steady heartbeat and then pounding thunder.

Utilizing the great textures of the exposed brick wall of the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre and the wide open space, lighting designer Chris Malkowsi, uses light and shadow to create giants that dwarf the dancers, he uses floods of colour to wash the dancers in nature’s elements to help create visuals that are both prehistoric and futuristic at the same time. With all these pieces combine, it’s like watching a well-crafted music video.

AF is only on stage until March 1 and it is a performance that is well worth the watch. Everything combined in this show makes for an experience that is transcendent and simply out of this world. It is our duty, I feel, to not only acknowledge the Indigenous peoples of this land but to embrace and learn from their culture and their stories and this is a wonderful chance to do just that.


  • AF is playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St) until March 1, 2020.
  • Performances run Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm with Wednesday matinees at 1:00 pm and weekend matinees at 2:00 pm.
  • Tickets run $29 to $79.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone by calling 416 368 3110, or in person at the box office.
  • Run Time: 55 minutes
  • Audience Advisory: Strobe lighting is used during this performance.

Photo of Eddie Elliott, Miyeko Ferguson, Marrin Jessome by Dahlia Katz