Spotlight On: Spy Dénommé-Welch

Ontario Presents and its member presenting organizations recognize the importance of presenting Indigenous artists, stories and culture as part of their presenting practice. As we continue to encourage the respectful presentation of Indigenous art, we will be featuring an Indigenous artist each month in our e-newsletter and blog. Our sincere thanks to Denise Bolduc for conceiving of and continuing to support this Spotlight Series.

Spotlights are developed with the artist, and are intended simply to share the artist’s work and foster greater awareness and understanding of the strength and diversity of Indigenous art available in Ontario and beyond.

Spy Denomme Welch Headshot

This month we spoke with writer and composer Dr. Spy Dénommé-Welch

To get us started, can you share a bit about yourself and your work? 

I’m an artist of Anishnaabe identity. I work as a writer (playwright and librettist) and composer. Over the last decade I’ve been mainly focused on creating work in theatre and opera. 

You’ve done a lot of work and research in decolonizing performance practices, is that focus related to your musical work in traditionally European musical forms like opera and classical music? How does your research inform your creative work? 

I do work to incorporate elements of decolonizing performance practice in various aspects of my music and opera work. In the context of artistic collaboration this has offered an important means to explore storytelling in music using land-based approaches, which is integrated into the written text, storytelling, and music composition elements.

Further, when working with composition and writing from the land, I make a conscious effort, wherever possible, to do as much research and site/land specific exploration to inform my work and to also acknowledge the place(s) which I am connected to. 

In your view, what can we in the presenting field do to better support decolonization in the performing arts? 

I think it helps when space is opened up to others to tell their own stories.

I believe it also helps when resources are distributed and shared to artistic communities that have been historically deprived from opportunities such as funding and programming.

It also helps when presenters can better integrate and sustain authentic relationships with communities that are not typically represented on their stages or in their spaces. 

You often collaborate with Catherine Magowan, with whom you co-created your Dora-nominated opera Giiwedin. What do you think you each bring to that creative partnership? 

Yes, Catherine is one of my primary collaborators. I think we each bring an openness to the creative process, and more so a respect for each other’s artistic voice.

While we come from different life experiences and backgrounds, we also recognize that we have many parallels and intersections, which brings a richness to our partnership as collaborative composers. As such, it seems that our work as collaborative composers is unique, but the outcome and output of the work is rewarding. 

What’s next for you? do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share about? 

I’m currently working on my second full length opera, which I wrote the libretto for and am co-composing with Catherine. I recently completed an intensive residency at the Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto) during which we workshopped some staging and design elements, as we are working towards getting it production ready for the near future.

Also, I’m slated to present work at the upcoming Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival (at Native Earth) in November 2018. 

Where can people learn more about your work or get in touch? 

People can learn more about my work or get in touch with me by visiting Unsettled Scores.

Thank you to Spy for sharing with us!

Photo credit: Lady Luck Photography