Show at H’front examines mixed-race I-dentity

By RON FANFAIR

Toronto is a culturally diverse metropolis with a vibrant arts scene. It’s for that reason that Melanie Haywood moved to this city a year ago, leaving her parents and older sister in Calgary where she was raised since arriving as a toddler from Grenada.

Being alone in a big city was a risk that the artist/choreographer was willing to take to showcase her first theatrical solo production on a large stage to a wider audience.

I-dentity, which runs at Harbourfront Centre from September 23-25, tells the story of Haywood’s personal struggle and development as a person of mixed racial background, living a dual cultural life as a West Indian and Canadian. From early childhood, she was forced to explain her background to people after finding out that she didn’t fit into the mould of identified racial groups.

Recognizing the need to explore these issues on various artistic and intellectual levels, she uses spoken word, dance, media and theatre elements to express the associated complexities of living both within and outside the mainstream.

Collaborating with four other women of mixed Caribbean backgrounds, Haywood welcomes her audience to partake in her story that touches on the unique experiences of discovering one’s own identity.

“This show is about accepting and embracing differences and individuality and it puts into words and movement my journey and the obstacles I faced as a child being of mixed ancestry,” said Haywood whose Grenadian parents are of African, Portuguese, Scottish and Indian ancestry. “This project has been in the works for several years, culminating to this moment where I can now share my experiences on a larger scale and hopefully create a dialogue for others with similar stories.”

A Queen’s University graduate with a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies, Haywood was a prominent figure in Calgary’s dance community for many years, teaching hip-hop, funk and street dance.

“I did as much as I could have in western Canada and I was looking for a change,” she said. “The arts community here is large and very visible and it was obvious to me that if I wanted to step up and be recognized for my work, I had to move here which is what I did.”

The rest of the cast comprises Kristy Anthony, the head choreographer at the Calgary-based Holla Productions that supports youth with an interest in the urban performing arts; actor/dancer Chattrisse Dolabaille; York University Bachelor of Fine Arts student Jessica Reynolds and dancer Sabrina Comanescu.

The price of admission is $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Tickets are available at Harbourfront Centre’s box office, the Grenada Consulate, 439 University Ave. and at www.triple7movement.com.

 

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