Iksokapi Profile: Sandra Laronde, Lake Temagami
“Cultivate the heart as much as the brain.” – S. Laronde
PROFILE – Sandra Laronde, O.M.C., B.A. (Hon), Hon. LL.D is well known as an accomplished artist in Canada. In 2008, she became the director of Indigenous Arts at The Banff Centre. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance, Canada’s leading company of contemporary world Indigenous performance in dance, theatre and music. She has received numerous achievements including the Victor Martyn Staunch-Lynch Award for Outstanding Mid-Career Artist in the Discipline of Dance (2013). In 2011, she received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Trent University; and the Expressive Arts Award from The Smithsonian Institute. She was also awarded the Ontario Good Citizenship Medal; a City of Toronto and Toronto Life’s “face the arts” recipient celebrating cultural mavericks; the Paul D. Fleck Fellowship in the Arts from The Banff Centre; and Toronto City Council’s Aboriginal Affairs Award. She also has two Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a Teme-Augama-Anishnaabe (People of the Deep Water) from the shores of Lake Temagami in northern Ontario, and a director, producer, and creative leader.
What keeps you busy these days?
Where do I start? There’s so much going on. I’m working on about five new projects in dance, theatre, music, and film. Extremely busy with my positions as both the Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance and the Director of Indigenous Arts at The Banff Centre. Red Sky heads to Shanghai in November as the featured Canadian company at the International Arts Festival in Shanghai, China, so we are preparing for that. At Banff, we just finished a highly successful 4-week intensive dance program, Indigenous Dance Residency, that had Indigenous dancers from 6 countries involved, and now we have an incredible writing program coming up in a week’s time.
A strong sense of destiny. A big part of my inspiration comes from the beautiful and vast land where I come from. Being on the land as a babe, I believe that the land gets right inside of you through osmosis, and then we carry that with us wherever we go. It’s like being plugged into an electrical circuit that has boundless energy and ideas.
I’m from 1,600 islands, 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) of shoreline, fresh and deep water. This is the place that my parents are from, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my great-great grandparents and so on down this incredible bloodline. I’m from Temagami – ‘way up north where the trees grow so high, they have to take them down at night to let the stars go by’. I see potential in so much, but rarely do I see performances that have truly moved me. You know that lasting inspiration where images swim in your head and heart for days, weeks and sometimes years. There are so many stories and possibilities that I don’t see onstage, and I want to make this happen. I know how to make this happen.
What recent accomplishments are you most fond of?
I’m proud of receiving an Honourary Doctorate Degree from Trent University. It just came out of blue and so was a wonderful surprise.
I’m fond of the success of the Indigenous Dance Residency at The Banff Centre and the way that we work together to make it highly successful, collaborative and creative. I’m very proud of all that we have accomplished at Red Sky Performance and all of its successes.
I’m extremely proud that my Mother and family are proud of me.
I find having several projects on-the-go simultaneously more stimulating. It’s the way that my brain works. Rather than just one uni-project at a time, one after another, my creative world is multiverse, with several simultaneous projects on the go. There’s a ‘creative bounce’ off and between the projects that is exciting.
It’s essential to have some wonderful people and artists to work with as they make it possible for me to have a hectic schedule. My partner, Duff, is also incredibly supportive and smart. He’s also very creative as an architect. You always have to have your eye on the horizon, so that you don’t get tired. You have to take care of your health along the way. You always have to find inspiration around you, in the Creator, in nature, in people, film, books, and everywhere possible, all of this helps tremendously.
To do everything that I do extremely well, and to bring with me many talented and deserving people.
Advice for aspiring artists?
To never give up, and to cultivate a sentience and a gut-knowing. Cultivate the heart as much as the brain. Be ‘feel-think’. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. There will be many nay-sayers and people who will not want you to succeed. There are no short-cuts, and you have to develop a very strong and smart work ethic. Opportunity often comes dressed in overalls. Lastly, if you stand still, your vision is going to die, you have to keep it moving.
Photo credits (in alphabetical order): Donald Lee, Rita Taylor Cylla Von Tiedemann, Laura Vangas, Paula Wilson.