It’s been 40 years since Canadian Stage began summer performances in High Park under the starry sky. Hidden just off the busy path of joggers, cyclers and dog walkers is this outdoor theatre surrounded by tall trees. Twinkly lights guide you down the pathway to the open space and in an instant you’re in awe that something like this actually exists just steps away from the subway in the city. You can hear the birds chirping, crickets singing, and leave on trees lightly swaying. Suddenly the sound of traffic is washed away. On this night, we were here for the opening of MUKUTHÔ, the world premiere of the uplifting and beautiful new collaborative dance work with Dance Immersion and Canadian Stage by Casimiro Nhussi (NAfro Dance) and Pulga Muchochoma (Pulga Dance and African Dance, Toronto).
MUKUTHÔ is based on a ritual that is performed by the elders of the Chuabo Tribe of Mozambique to communicate with ancestors to ask for forgiveness, guidance and to reconnect with the living. It’s a customary ritual that also welcomes new family members and connects generations. It also serves as a way to pass down knowledge to younger family members through song, dance and music.
Customarily, the ritual is performed as members of the tribe would sit in a circle. The elder would pour white corn flour into a white fabric on the floor. A prayer is spoken and other members would respond with a traditional word and a double clap. MUKOTHÔ is adapted for the stage setting and engages the audience. You’re encouraged to also bring small percussion instruments as well.
Both Casimiro and Pulga are Mozambique. “In African traditions, there is always a belief that we are connected to our ancestors. We believe that our ancestors are the ones that guide us, the ones who pave the path for us to walk through, the ones who turn on the light in the days of darkness, the ones that connect us with Mother Nature and teach us to love one another. Therefore, for Africans, it does not matter what part of the world we are living in, we are always connected and communicating with our ancestors and with Mother Nature. At this moment, we need to communicate with our spirits, our ancestors, and to Mother Nature. At this moment, we need to regain our strength and rejuvenate our souls. At this moment, we need to communicate with whatever we believe so that we can get up and continue with our journey,” the artists explain in the show’s description. How fitting is it that we experience this on ancestral and territorial lands?
Joining the dancers on stage is award-winning musician, composer and producer Kobèna Acquaah-Harrison originally from Ghana. With intention his music on multiple traditional African instruments washes away concerning thoughts and revives your soul. Sometimes lightly and softly… then full of joy.
Reconnecting with our elders, the land and each other as we begin to resurface during the pandemic is something that really drew us to this particular show. Within the hour we absorbed the surroundings. We watched. We listened. We celebrated. In one moment, the audience of all ages got up and danced under the stars. In that moment we felt so rejuvenated, carefree and alive. We took it all in.
Bring your blanket or cushion (maybe insect repellent if you are a mosquito magnet) and savour the moment but hurry, MUKOTHÔ is at the Dream in High Park Stage only until August 22.
More info and tickets can be found at www.canadianstage.com