'Chapter 21' choreography and performance by Starr Muranko
Produced by Raven Spirit Dance and Presented by Native Earth
Credit: Erik Zennstrom. Pictured: Starr Muranko
‘A story of the strength and resilience of a woman who will move forward in her life.’
Raven Spirit Dance bills ‘Chapter 21’ as a: “dance/theatre piece [that] explores what happens when a vibrant, active artist faces a crippling collision of events. Chapter 21 is a reflection on the days that have come to pass and the art of becoming. A new baby boy; Chromosome 21; the big “C” diagnosis, 21 days between treatments, and 21 days to re-pattern beliefs; Courage; Faith; Resilience.”
‘Chapter 21’ is a tightly compact production that is visually and emotionally striking. It’s a clear reminder from an artistic sense that less means far more.
Even though I am not a parent, I have very good friends who have a child who has Down’s Syndrome. I didn’t know them when their young lad was born. Now that my friends are in my life, I am witness to this family grow in ‘courage, faith, resilience’ AND LOVE as they live their daily lives.
Although I am a survivor of the big ‘C’ diagnosis, my younger brother passed away from it the year prior. That’s why the production became powerful for me to watch. I just bonded with some of the visceral movement of artist Starr Muranko as she dealt with the reality of cancer in her life and how she had to re-pattern her beliefs moving forward.
What I found fascinating about the production is my new understanding of the word ‘choreography’. Donna Redlick is billed as the Somatic Movement Coach. I looked up its definition: “Generally speaking, [somatic movement]… is performed consciously with the intention of focusing on the internal experience of the movement rather than the external appearance or result of the movement.
Starr Muranko just let herself be in the internal experiential moment. She bonds herself to the strong visual elements of the Indigenous teachings of nature and Mother Earth which ground her fully.
As she moved, her body sometimes gracefully and spontaneously told her story with compassion and anger in learning about her cancer diagnosis and her soon-to-be-born son’s diagnosis with Down Syndrome. There were many times during the 45 minutes when I just connected immediately with her. Dressed in a white top and white slip, Muranko appears to be writhing on the floor in tremendous pain at the top of the show. She then removes a blond wig she wears. That moment was powerful to watch.
The writhing on the floor personally hit home as I’ve been there and watched a close relative do that. Then there are moments when Muranko reaches out as if she is trying to connect and hold on to something, anything, to help navigate herself through this period of 21 days in re-patterning her beliefs. Another moment that hit close to my heart.
Lighting and sound become vital to the success of this engaging production so respective acknowledgement to Jonathan Kim and Edgardo Moreno. The brief moments of darkness allowed me to catch my breath before listening again when Muranko broke the fourth wall. In these moments, she connects with the audience as she begins to focus on how she must rebuild her life. Does she wear the wig since she lost her hair during her chemo treatment? Or does she embrace what has happened to her all the while focusing her attention on her young son?
Final Comments: ‘Chapter 21’ becomes a haunting portrayal of the personhood of being a woman As an Indigenous woman, her strength and resilience in connection to Mother Earth carry her forward through this tumultuous time.’
A brave story about not giving up in the face of what life throws at all of us.
‘Chapter 21’ deserves to be seen.
Running time: approximately 45 minutes.
‘Chapter 21’ runs until March 26 at the Aki Studio, 585 Dundas Street East, Toronto. For tickets, call (416) 531-1402 or visit nativeearth.ca.
Produced by Raven Spirit Dance
Presented by Native Earth
Choreographed and Performance by Starr Muranko
Director: Yvette Nolan
Composer: Edgardo Moreno
Lighting Designer: Jonathan Kim
Stage Manager: Amanda Parafina
Costume Design: Jeanette Kotowich