The Rosebud Theater and School of the Arts will once again host New Blood, a story told through dance, choreographed by Deanne Bertsch of Strathmore High School.
“New Blood is a show about Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman, he’s a former chief of the Siksika Nation. It’s his story of growing up in (a) boarding school, then battling addiction, then healing and become the leader of his people,” Bertsch said.
She explained that the inspiration for the show came in 2014 following a trip to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, where Bertsch spent time looking at Indigenous pictographs and listening to his guide’s stories.
Being someone who works with many Siksika students at Strathmore High School, Bertsch said she was “saddened and horrified” to learn that the stories behind many of the pictographs had been lost, largely due to the impacts of residential schools.
From this experience, Bertsch was compelled to create a show with her dance class that told the story of the Blackfoot people.
“We interviewed a Blackfoot teacher from our school named Eulalia Running Rabbit and she just talked about the moments in history that changed the way Blackfoot do things,” Bertsch said. “We started creating the show and it was about a little bit about the fur trade and a little bit about residential schools and reservations…but because it was a dance class, we told it all through movement.”
Lacking direction for his story, one of Bertsch’s students at the time suggested he call his grandfather, who after sharing his personal story, shared a poem with Bertsch titled The Indian and the child, which became the story the show is based on.
This is the second time the Rosebud Theater has presented New Blood, the first time in 2016. Bertsch said this year’s cast is the “12th or 13th” who have participated in telling the story.
“Rosebud (School of the Arts) asked me to do this with their students, so they learn about the role of Spirit Dancers. Spirit Dancers are animal spirits who are sort of protectors of the Blackfoot children who are in residential schools added Bertsch.
“The students who play the boarding school kids, all of them have parents or grandparents who went to boarding school, so they actually play their parents or grandparents on the show.”
The show’s soundtrack is taken from Peter Gabriel’s album of the same name, New Blood, which was originally produced in the 1980s.
New Blood will be presented at the Rosebud Theater from March 18-20.
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