Prismatic Arts Festival

Level Up



Through Level Up, the Prismatic Arts Festival has commissioned four artists and arts organizations to create new works or expand existing works. Prismatic audiences will be able to engage with the development of these works through workshop presentations and will see the debut of the new works at Prismatic 2017 and Prismatic 2018.

Level Up provides over 40 artists the opportunity to develop new works, expand existing works, or participate in new and innovative artistic projects. In each case, the participating artists are able to take risks, work on a greater scale and scope than their usual activities, and expand the scope and scale their artistic work. This project will result in four new (or expanded) theatre / dance / music pieces that showcase the exceptional artistic vision and talents of leading Indigenous and culturally diverse artists in Canada.

The Prismatic Arts Festival is thrilled to have received a Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter Grant to support the Level Up project.

Level Up Artists and Projects:

  • Cris Derksen – Orchestral Powwow
  • The Mariachi Ghost / Jorge Requena – Rencor Vivo
  • Signal Theatre / Michael Greyeyes / Falen Johnson / Yvette Nolan
  • Santee Smith – Sewatonhna ren


The Mariachi Ghost – Rencor Vivo

From driving rhythms and soaring melodies to brooding synths and dreamy vocal breaks, Mariachi Ghost fuses traditional Mexican song, progressive rock and a flair for the dramatic. Seven musicians interweave diverse genres and rhythms to create a soundscape that is dramatic, haunting, and explosive. They’re joined on stage by dancer and band-mate Alexandra Garrido, who acts as a conduit of the music, expertly assuming its auras of sorrow, reflection and rage. The Mariachi Ghost have performed across Canada and have been showcased at SXSW and other major US music events. The Mariachi Ghost was presented at Prismatic 2015.

For Level Up, The Mariachi Ghost, under the artistic leadership of Jorge Requena will be developing and producing RencorVivo, a multi-disciplinary theatre production that brings the story of Pedro Paramo by the grandfather of magical realism, Juan Rulfo, to the stage with live music and dance.

For Level Up, The Mariachi Ghost and Jorge will take their artistic work to the next level and will bring Juan Rulfo’s novel, Pedro Paramo to the stage in a spectacle of theatre, music, dance, video and projection: RencorVivo

The Mariachi Ghost team will be expanded to include: 8 musicians, 8 dancers, four singers, along with a make-up artist, designers and technicians who will work under the guidance of Jorge to develop and produce RencorVivo.

Prismatic hosted a production development workshop and presentation during the 2017 festival. Work on the production will continue through 2017 and 2018. Rencor Vivo will debut at Prismatic 2018.

The Mariachi Ghost

Coming soon.



Santee Smith – Sewatonhna ren

Santee Smith (Kahnyen’kehaka – Mohawk Nation) has been dancing professionally and choreographing dance works for over 20 years. In 2005, she founded Kaha:wi Dance Theatre where she is the Artistic Director. Innovative, transformative and culturally power-packed performances distinguish Santee as one of Canada’s most exciting choreographers. Santee has developed and produced work across Canada in solo projects, through KDT and in partnership with many of Canada’s leading dance and theatre companies. She has participated in arts and dance festivals throughout Canada, the United States and internationally. Santee’s solo show, NeoIndigenA, produced KDT had its world premiere at the 2014 Prismatic Arts Festival.

As part of Level Up, Santee will be expanding her short workshop piece, Sewatonhna ren into a full-length, full staged dance theatre production that will be debuted at Prismatic 2018.

Sewatonhna ren is an interdisciplinary performance work that acknowledges the lives and spirit of Mohawk Institute residential school students. By symbolically offering students what they did not receive: love, caring, tenderness, nourishment, cultural knowledge and language, the work addresses healing, interwoven narratives from survivors and hope for the future. The performance acknowledges the devastating impacts on the parents and families without their children.

The performance features an Indigenous creative process including cultural research, embodied exploration (dance), live song and text, script writing, language translation, music/score creation and recording, concept design (set, lighting, costume, video). The creation/production team draws from the talents of the Six Nations Onkwehon:we community in live and video-taped performances.

Initial concept and creation for Sewatonhna ren occurred during the Mush Hole Project 2016. The work project was Call to Action to the Truth and Reconciliation Report. It was a 16-minute performance installation which included audience participation. After an overwhelming positive audience response to the work, Santee is working to further develop the work into a 45-minute performance which will be presented at the Prismatic Arts Festival in September 2018.

    Santee Smith

        COMING SOON.

 mush hole



Signal Theatre – New Theatre for Young Audiences Project

Signal Theatre creates a wide variety of performance works, from concert dance to dance theatre, from solo performance and installation to opera. As part of Level Up, Signal Theatre will develop a new dance theatre project, the “Signal TYA Project”, a work devised specifically for young audiences and touring.

Falen Johnson (Mohawk) is a successful playwright and performer, and former member of the Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble. She has been commissioned to create a script for this live theatre work. Michael Greyeyes (Plains Cree) is a choreographer, director, writer and educator.  Selected directing credits include: A Soldier’s Tale, from thine eyes (Signal Theatre), Pimooteewin (Soundstreams Canada), Almighty Voice and his Wife  (Native Earth Performing Arts), and Seven Seconds (2010 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival).  In 2010, he founded Signal Theatre, an Indigenous theatre company engaging in practiced-based research. Signal has presented at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, The Banff Centre and the National Arts Centre and is currently developing a dance opera exploring Canada’s Indian residential school legacy. He is also the current Graduate Program Director of the MFA stream at York University.

Prismatic has commissioned Signal Theatre to develop a new theatre work for young audiences. Under the artistic leadership of choreographer, dancer, director, Michael Greyeyes and writer, Falen Johnson, Signal will employ an Indigenous world view and working process to develop and produce a new production in an extended artistic process.

The Signal TYA Show follows the journey of an Indigenous military test pilot who has been transported into an alternate reality in which Upper and Lower Canada developed without Anglophone influence. This new project will re-connect our present to a “historical” Indigenous “mythology”—and can be seen as a blueprint for a contemporary Indigenous world-view. At the same time, the project examines how vivid, life-size images intersect with and inform live action.

The unique aspect of this production, apart for the Indigenous world-view that guides its creation, is its extensive and fully integrated video component. Although the live action revolves around the physical presence of a small cast—approximately—2 or 3 actors, the script relies upon and uses a larger cast of performers, who appear only in the video component. These characters, like many others our protagonist will meet, are seen only as images, integrated into the flow of the live narrative.

The Prismatic Arts Festival will be hosting a production development workshop during Prismatic 2018.

Signal Theatre


Photo credit: Dahlia Katz
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz












Cris Derksen – Orchestral Powwow

Cris Derksen is a Juno-nominated Indigenous cellist and composer known for building sound layers in captivating performances. Her music braids the traditional and contemporary in multiple dimensions, weaving her classical training and her Indigenous ancestry with new school electronics, creating genre-defying music. Cris earned a Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance at UBC and shared the title of Principal Cellist with the UBC Symphony Orchestra. She was also Curator in Residence at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Cris was nominated for the Instrumental Album of the year at the 2016 Juno Awards and was presented at Prismatic 2016.

For Level Up Cris will be re-working Orchestral Powwow with her core team of musicians and dancers and a group of local classical musicians.

Cris Derksen’s Orchestral Powwow Project is just as it sounds, the complete integration of classical symphonic music and traditional Indigenous Powwow music. Created by Cris Derksen and Robert Todd of Tribal Spirits record label and debuted in 2015. The project showcases Indigenous performers front and center of the European classical model as Indigenous Artists lead the way with the Drum creating new forms of music. Cris Derksen is an award winning half- Cree, half – Mennonite composer and cellist, performing on an international scale Cris’s work has always centered on the Traditional and Contemporary layers in art. The Orchestral Powwow Project, highlighting The Chippewa Traveller’s powwow group, was a 2016 Juno nominee for Best Instrumental Album.

For Prismatic 2017, Cris will bring her team of 10 musicians and dancers to Halifax where they will collaborate with eight local classical musicians to develop and present the Atlantic Canada debut of Orchestral Powwow. In all, this project will bring 18 musicians and dancers to the stage in a performance that will be a new artistic experience for most audiences in the region and which will embody the spirit of reconciliation.

Cris Derksen

PResented at PrISMATIC 2017.

orchestral powwow