Canada // Dance // Music  


A world premiere dance-opera from Michael Greyeyes and Yvette Nolan

June 22 – 24, 2017

World Premiere
“Every person in Canada is surviving residential schools, because if you’re Canadian you’re  part of it.”
Michael Greyeyes
Canada’s residential school system is not in the past; its impact is woven throughout our country’s present. Until we face its legacy together, its long shadows will haunt and divide us. Bearing proposes that we address our history collectively and examines the Indigenous notion that time is circular—and that the trauma of the past is inextricably linked to the present.

A world premiere dance-opera created by co-directors Michael Greyeyes (Plains Cree) and Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) and librettist Spy Denommé-Welch (Anishnaabe), Bearing features music performed live by the National Youth Orchestra with some of Toronto’s best professional classical musicians, a custom-built choir, and mezzo soprano Marion Newman (Kwagiulth and Stó:lo). Music by JS Bach, Vivier, and a commissioned work by Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan is combined with percussion and electronics while the performers communicate through dance, music, and spoken word. It’s an ambitious, multi-faceted piece from Signal Theatre featuring some of the most talented and exciting artists of our times.

When the headlines speak of an Indigenous community in crisis, our national discourse demands that we remain present and that our conversations move us all forward into healing and recovery. Presented in a custom built theatre in the Canadian Opera Company complex on Front Street East, Bearing helps us take one step towards understanding. 
A Signal Theatre production


“Michael Greyeyes doesn't want people to just think about the weight of the history Canada has with Indigenous people — he wants you to feel it.”
– CBC q

Creative Team

About Signal Theatre

Signal Theatre is a Canadian-based theatre company, founded by Michael Greyeyes in 2010. Emitting images, ideas and stories, Signal Theatre is committed to the collaborative process, experimentation, and intercultural research. Signal is both interdisciplinary and intercultural, creating work that reflects and privileges indigenous knowledges, as well as international creation methodologies that situate physical rigour and exploration as the centre of the work.

Shifting across all frequencies, Signal explores both physical and text-based theatre, which moves through the disciplines of dance, opera, music, design, and the spoken word. Their vision is to enrich the Canadian landscape through public performance/interventions and to broaden the social and political awareness of their audiences both at home and internationally through touring and outreach.

Signal places the human at the centre of their theatrical practice and, as their Elders have instructed, seeks to make us whole, empowered, and connected to one another.

Michael Greyeyes and Yvette Nolan, Signal Theatre

J.S. Bach (“Jesu, meine Freude”), Claude Vivier (“Wo Bist du Licht!”), and Spy Dénommé-Welch & Catherine Magowan (“Sojourn")

Michael Caldwell, Brefny Caribou-Curtin, Sarain Carson-Fox, and Nightswimming 

Spy Dénommé-Welch (“Sojourn")

Gregory Oh

Signal Theatre

Michelle Ramsay

Joanna Yu

Laura Warren

Brittany Ryan

Irvin Chow
Aria Evans
Ceinwen Gobert
Ana Groppler
Louis Laberge-C.t.
Daniel McArthur
Sophie Merasty
Marion Newman (Soprano)
Brandon Oakes
Jillian Peever

Jeanne-Sophie Baron
Yeganeh Sotudehnia
Anaïs Saucier-Lafond
Celia Morin
Madelynn Erickson
Martin Noh
Bethany Bergman
Phoebe Tsang
Leslie Ting
Rebecca Macleod
Parmela Attariwala

Emily Rekrut-Pressey
Maxime Despax
Alex McLeod
Kathleen Kajioka

Mary-Katherine Finch
Aiden Russell
Sebastian Ostertag
Sébastien Talbot
Hugo Paquet
Josh Wynnyk
Michelle Colton
Paul Jenkins
Laura Pudwell
Justin Welsh
Zach Finkelstein
Michele DeBoer
Virginia Hatfield
Mitchell Pady
Emma Hannan
Graham Robinson
Stephanie Hradsky

More Information

Act I – “Jesu, meine Freude”

The Canadians, naked but for their undergarments, are reluctant to enter into a difficult conversation. As they put on the costumes that are strewn about the space, they assume the experiences and memories attached to those roles: clergy, a residential school uniform, lawyers, regular citizens. The Indigenous family is estranged, splintered by its history with residential school, barely seen by the Canadians. John, the son, finds his sister Annie, who was taken into care as a child, who is largely assimilated into the mainstream, but still resentful because of her belief she was given up. Annie listens to her brother lay out the facts about her seizure from Mary when she was six years old.

Act II – “Wo bist du Licht!”

The Canadians take their places in the classroom of the residential school. The family moves into the house to watch while the Canadians live the experience. The act ends in wreckage, chairs and clothing everywhere, bodies twisted and exhausted. The Canadians stand and look for the family in the house.

Act III – “Sojourn”

Sojourner enters the space. Her presence is cleansing. The Canadians begin to tidy the chairs and clothes, and take seats. Sojourner’s song brings Mary back to the space, where she looks for her lost daughter. John, frustrated and angry, enters the space, disrupting Sojourner’s song, but one of the Canadians restrains him. The Canadians revisit their stories, which are now gentler, transformed by their experiences in the clothes and the classroom. Sojourner states that it is time to chart a new course; there is the opportunity for real healing, once the Canadians have a deeper understanding of the experience of the Indigenous people, what it means to bear some of the weight of this history.