What an amazing journey I had from 24th July - 13th August in Turtle Island (Canada). Flew over with my company to present [MIS]CONCEIVE at the Living Ritual Festival presented by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and then partook in the Creation Lab that followed on Six Nations Territory.

Let’s start at the beginning,  first of all there was many many bumps on the first international tour for my group starting with leaving my passport in the Uber at Sydney Airport !!! Not to worry, I got that back and got on the plane and begun the long journey. 14 hours to LA, 4 hour layover, 5 hour flight to Toronto. Problem bump number two, we left Sydney with five pieces of luggage between the entire company, we arrived in Toronto Canada with only three !!! They left it in LA !!! We go through customs, come out the the side and see the amazing Cynthia with Semiah who greeted us with a song that she created. It was great to see the spirit of culture echo through the airport, as if a moment in time where First Nations people were vocally letting there presence be heard to all those arriving into Turtle Island. So pack the car (with our less then expected number of luggage) and off we went to our accomodation, check in was at 6pm. Arrive around the area of our accomodation not exactly sure where to go so I message my Airbnb host. And then I message again. I call. I text. Welcome problem bump number three !!! In a foreign place, hungry, tired, no change of clothes and now no where to go. Minutes away from canceling and about to book another place I am finally contacted and told how to check in. So check in we did, at 10pm, four hours after planned check in. On the plus it was a cool awesome place, the owners were cool and then they had two cats for us to hang out with as well. 

Now we go to sleep.

All that done and dusted from yesterday we move into the first day of the festival. We make our way to the Fleck Dance Theatre to start with an Edge of the Woods Ceremony, it’s kind of like a Welcome to Country, we are approached by the people of the land and asked our intentions, ‘do we come in peace or war?’. A feather, cup of water and the burning of sage are all used so that we may cleanse and rid ourselves from any burdens we may have had in the past so that we approach the festival with a clear mind. This was needed for me due to the problem bumps that had occurred the day previous. People were offered there opportunity to present an offer to share something from their people and so of course I did, I went up to the mic with an uncle from the south coast and we offered a few songs, as did brother’s and sisters from Aotearoa, New Zealand. Then the ceremony was concluded with voices of the people of the land we gathered.

Once the ceremony ended the festival kicked into gear. Keynote speakers, Panel discussions, movement workshops, performances and post show Q&A’s.

It was amazing to be in the space with so many amazing First Nation artists from all over the world, so much more humbling that my company, my troupe of four were there to participate in the events, Taree Sansbury, Natalie Pelarek, Yukino McHugh and myself. So inspired to watch works from people of the Mohawk, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, and the Maori people. 

On the third and final day of the festival we presented my show [MIS]CONCEIVE, this time with a new performer due to Caleena being to deadly for us and touring with other people. What an amazing experience it was. Not only was this [MIS]CONCEIVE’s first tour internationally but it was also the first time I had toured my company and my own work internationally and I don’t believe that I could have had any better of an international premiere then what I had at the Living Ritual Festival in Toronto, Turlte Island (Canada).

After presenting and then spending time together at Niagara Falls, Taree and I moved onto the next step of the tour. Kaha:wi Dance Theatre creation Lab on Six Nations reservation, this in which I facilitated and shared along with Santee Smith from Kaha:wi, CAN, Taane Mete from Okareka, NZ, Been Ngarino Te Waati from Haiwiki Tū, NZ and Jamie Black from Canada. We spent two weeks sharing cultural and contemporary practices, stories of our people and country. Laughing and eating together, watching Lacrossemeeting community, especially the community at Tim Hortons, performing before Iskwè, swam, had photoshoots and much much more.

Not only did we share with each other, but we ran community dance workshops which many community members of Oshweken came to. So much emotion and spiritual sharing, the developments of our own personal techniques and the opportunity to explore what it means to be not only indigenous but to be apart of an international First Nation family and how we are all continuing cultural practices through artistic mediums. Of course we have gone a while without a problem bump so here we go, problem bump number four, my computer dies !!! So here I am now writing this on a new computer, it is bittersweet, new computer yay !!! Massive dent into my bank account !!!

To conclude this long slash short blogged update to my journey I need to offer so much gratitude to the amazing people who made this happen. Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, Santee, Cynthia, Semia, Woodlands Cultural Centre, The Bears Inn, Taree, Nat, Kino, Oshweken and Six Nations.

Until next time.




Wombats, Kangaroos, an Echidna, Goanna and a clouded Super Moon.

All that mixed with some art making in a bush environment with no phone reception (but good wifi) that was my most recent adventure in a nutshell.

The Liverworks Artist Lab Residency ran by Sydney based Performance Space facilitated by their Commander in Chief Jeff Khan and co-facilitators Kee Hong Low and Claire Hicks. We were camped down in the bushland of South Coast NSW at the amazing Bundanon, Homestead campus for 10 days. They brought together 8 artists from various disciplines, backgrounds and geographical locations and in this time let us explore, experiment, discuss, play games and of course create art.

Being the dancer/choreographer type artist I began working on a new idea for a project. In that time I mind mapped, post it sticky noted it, improvised in both the studio and the bush, in which I came out at a very different place to where I entered. After a couple of days I then realised that I might have reached the end of this exploring on my own business and eventually moved onto planning for WOLLUMBIN / WARNING and the trajectory I wish to see it on. Having the advice from senior people in the industry proved to be hugely beneficial with where I want my works to go and how it is I may get there. One day about half way through the 10 days we were given a tour of the Boyd Homestead, home to artists Arthur and Yvonne Boyd, whose parents were artists and there kids are now artists and their kids kids are artists and there brothers and sisters and cousins are artists. Anyways seeing the paintings this man and his family had done inspired me to paint something of my own and so it begun (I am not a painter). It took me the remainder of the residency to complete so during this time I discovered that we had a video recorder, it looked really expensive, it was, around $4,000, so naturally I felt I needed to make a dance film of something because when am I going to play with a camera worth that much again. So I did. After filming, which included some of the other artists, I edited, composed an accompanying sound score and then screened it at a mock up "film festival" in the Barn studio for everyone to enjoy. They all had raving reviews (not because they were in it). So then at the end of the residencing with my completed painting and film it was time we left for home.

It was great to be there however I was artistically exhausted after 10 days making art, dance, writing, planning, filming, editing, composing, painting, ukulele-ing, discussing, participating, not to mention the running, red wine-ing, watching the US election, the animals, swimming, cooking, a lot of eating, kareoke, laughing, playing games and so so so much more.

So thank you to Performance Space, Jeff, Claire, Kee Hong and of course Skye, and to the other artists Natalie, Kenneth, Zoe, Sarah, Wenchi, Teta and Geumhyung, it was such a great adventure with you all and I still feel so inspired by it that I needed to write something down, this was it, and share it with the world and thank you to those who are reading this :)

Here is a picture of the painting and at the bottom is the film I created.


For now though I am back into the studio dancing on a new project, planning another and having a fun time while doing it :)

Until next time people.

Thomas E.S. Kelly