30 minutes, 20 seconds


Ann Southam


Costume Designer:
Susan Macpherson


Set Designer:
Ralph Smith


Lighting Designer:
Jim Plaxton


Premiere Date:
May 12, 1971, Toronto Dance Theatre


Premiere Location:
St. Lawrence Centre, Toronto


Indian Boy -- Keith Urban; The Snake -- Barry Smith; The Deer -- David Earle; The Bird -- David Wood; Spirit of the Snake -- Kathy Wildberger; Spirit of the Deer -- Helen Jones; Spirit of the Bird -- Merle Salsberg; Members of the Community -- Ricardo Abreut, Steven Oliver

Summary Note

Legend was originally created out of a series of workshops with the dancers. It is intended to communicate the spirit of our heritage from our native people.

Review by Dave Billington

[Legend] portrays an Indian boy undergoing his manhood ritual, consisting of remaining in the forest alone for days until he has reached a communion of spirit with the forest gods. In the course of this he is confronted by a snake, a deer and a bird and their spirits. As a test of endurance alone, the role would tax the stamina of a marathon runner. But through it all [Keith] Urban combines power with grace and energy with subtlety right to the climactic moment when he returns to his village with the musical instruments given him by the animals.

-- Toronto Telegram, May 13, 1971

Program Note, June 1984

There are many legends told by the native peoples of North America that confer a sacred character on all living things and offer powerful and imaginative explanations for the nature of our existence. This legend describes the origin of music. An Indian boy, reaching the end of childhood, is compelled to live for a time alone in the forest, fasting. He prays to the spirits of the forest to inspire him with a way to bring happiness to his people. In watching the animals and discovering their nature in himself, he is brought to his first experience of manhood -- and in the brief clarity of that moment he understands the gift which each animal has offered him.


The set, designed by Ralph Smith, was a semi-circle of hanging fibre on which were tied little pieces of lamb's wool to make a huge diamond-shaped pattern. The light filtered through it, resembling light through a forest. The cast sat beyond this semi-circle playing diverse instruments to accompany the dancing.

Interview: July 22, 2002

Legend is one of my works that I care about most. It was created from my memories of a play, He Who Makes Music, in which I appeared as a child with the Toronto Children Players. The work is based on a First Nations legend about the origin of music coming from listening to animals and imitating their sounds. I felt the theme should be the sexual awakening of an adolescent boy. I'm sure it was politically incorrect for me to have made up a First Nations legend but I believe that we should use global culture as inspiration.

When René Highway was in the company, we had a true native artist and he, of course, was perfect in the role of the boy. Like many modern-trained dancers, René was intimidated by dancers with a strong ballet background and he stressed himself out so much about technique, when in fact he was always unbelievably beautiful and powerful.