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Indigenous legend told through 'augmented reality' dance in Nanaimo

Crimson Coast Dance Society's Infringing festival will take place July 9-14

Despite Nanaimo seeing a reduced dragonboat celebration this year at Maffeo Sutton Park, Crimson Coast Dance Society’s annual ‘dance in the belly of the dragon’ festival is going full steam ahead.

Crimson Coast and the dragonboat festival have been partners for more than 10 years, celebrated over the same weekend and uniting different cultures through dance.

Artistic director and producer for the dance society, Holly Bright, laments the loss of the dragonboat festival this year, but stated the Infringing Festival will still see outdoor and indoor performances for most of next week.

In fact, one of Infringing’s main stage presentations has been roughly four years in the making.

Olivia Davies, the co-creator and choreographer for Maamawi: Together Through the Fire, said she, Bright, and show co-creator and digital media artist Athomas Goldberg, first talked about the incorporation of VR technology and contemporary dance back in 2020.

“I love new technologies and learning about it and learning how to present these kinds of shows,” Bright said.

The artistic director added that the dance society was able to offer residency to the performing group this year due to a cancellation of a different indoor show which allowed Davies and her cohorts to rehearse in a new space while calibrating technology. Bright said the upcoming Infringing performance at the Port Theatre is one of the first times the performing group has taken the show out of beta testing.

Maamawi only saw a world premiere last year in February at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver during an annual performance festival that celebrates contemporary female Indigenous dance, Matriarchs Uprising, of which Davies is the artistic director.

Years before the show came to the stage, Davies said she was intrigued into learning more about how the story of Anishinaabe prophecies have been handed down through generations, often through oral storytelling. She said the stories shared by Anishnaabe elder Gloria May Eshkibok were critical to the storytelling and virtual landscape of the production.

The narrative centres on the teachings and implications of one of the prophecies and uses the symbolic figures of the wolf and the eagle as they move through different environments, telling the story of humanity finding itself at a crossroads between prosperity and desolation.

“[The story] is reflecting back on the past and how our actions always ripple forward into the future,” Davies said, adding the use of technology to tell a story about crossroads was profoundly deliberate. “If we are going to use these tools, how will it serve us in accomplishing the good life? In fulfilling the good life?”

Infringing will see two presentations of Maamawi during the festival, one that includes the use of virtual reality headsets with a limit of eight seats per show, and the fully staged live performance with augmented reality, projections and motion-capture technology.

On July 13, the dance festival will be concentrated at Maffeo Sutton Park during the dragonboat regatta, and will include children’s entertainment and a celebration of Caribbean dance and music as curated by Nanaimo Reggae Massive.

More information on Maamawi can be found at and festival information for Infringing can be found at