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Kira Van Deusen with Cello

Kira's Performances

Storytelling Programs Music Workshops People Say...

Kira Van Deusen is a professional storyteller and cellist based in Vancouver, Canada. She delights listeners with adventures in worlds we do not see with the eye, accompanied by her evocative original cello and vocal music. Her stories ring with authenticity, coming directly through the oral tradition.

In the early 1990s she began travelling in Siberia and the Russian Far East, recording and telling stories from indigenous peoples. In 2004 she travelled in Nunavut, recording the Inuit legend of the great shaman-hero Kiviuq.

In recent years Kira has been fascinated by the Silk Road and particularly Persian stories. In the spring of 2012 she visited Iran for the first time and now tells a number of Persian stories, some in Farsi and the rest in English. These include selections from the Shahnameh, folk tales, and travel stories.

She has performed at Storytelling Festivals and Concert Series in Vancouver, Whitehorse, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and St. John’s, many times as featured teller, as well as in many other events since 1991.

Active in Canada’s storytelling scene, Kira has organized several of Vancouver’s “Epic Weekends” which involve 25-30 storytellers sharing a long story over a period of three days. The Epic Weekends have proved to be a highlight of the storytelling year for many and have led to many rewarding cultural connections within Vancouver. For more details, visit the Epic page.

Booking Information (e-mail Kira)

Audio and video clips:
Excerpt from Zahhak and Fereydun from the Persian Shahnameh, with Allice Bernards, storyteller, and musicians Hamin Honari, tonbak and daf, and Ali Razmy, tar.

Inuit story of Kiviuq: Audio clip of Beewoman; Audio clip of The Fox-wife.

Listen to an audio recording of the Tuvan tale "The Igil". recorded at the Newman Wine Vaults in St John's Newfoundland by CBC Radio (audio requires Mac users to install Quicktime if you don't have it).

Video clip of "The Birth of Hanuman" from the Ramanyana.

People Say...

Watercolour of Horseman with Telescope

"You radiate, actually glow, from within—it's beautiful to experience your voice/cellovoice/story coalescing, weaving magic, lifting listeners into travelling with you. Really transformative." Helen May, Vancouver storyteller.

"Kira explores ancient forms of storytelling in an avant-garde way. She revisits epics and myths of Siberian and Inuit oral literature, and weaves a framework of brilliantly original cello music around the mysteries and distilled wisdom these stories express." Dan Yashinsky, Storyteller's School of Toronto

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Storytelling Programs Offered

General Programming and Epic Evenings

New! Iranian Stories
Kira now offers tales of her own travels in Iran in English, including stories of the desert, of hospitality, and more. She has also written an original tale entitled “Journey to the Heart of a Persian Carpet.” It’s based on the journey of a long-ago carpet weaver mixed with her own, and includes music.

"Opening her knapsack of knowledge and artistry, Kira has become an ambassador of friendship and peace!" Fleur Talebi, storyteller and Shahnameh specialist

"Wherever Kira's stories take me, I travel far and deep, to real and imagined worlds, to actual physical landscapes and to those of the spirit. Wherever her stories take me I return with a profound and enduring sense of that place. The images remain with me always." Linda Stender, Storyteller

"Travel in a story's homeland has always helped me see and convey imagery more powerfully. For more about my trip, see Postcards from Iran."

Storytelling in Farsi includes several folktales and Mullah Nasrudin tales, plus another few told bilingually. Little by little more will be available in Farsi!

Kira continues to delight in telling two long stories from the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi in English: “Zahhak and Fereydun” (told with Allice Bernards) and “Zal and Rudabeh”.

Kira in her Turkmen coat

Epic Evenings

Zal and Rudabeh, a Persian Love Story
Romance merges with plenty of practical inspiration for solving problems without war! Both women and men show how great strength can emerge when former enemies come together. This story comes from the Shahnameh, written a thousand years ago and still fresh today. With cello music - 2 hours.

The Snake King and the Hero, aka Zahhak and Fereydun
This story comes from the Shahnameh, one of Persia’s greatest poetic works. It is told by Kira and her colleague Allice Bernards, with music by Hamin Honari and Ali Razmy. The wicked Zahhak shows how fear begets fear, while the heroic Feraydun brings light to those dark places. Full of passion, tragedy, and humour. 2 hours.

“This beautiful and effective performance brings one of Iran’s greatest treasures to Canadian audiences.” Farhang Magazine, Vancouver

from Zahhak and Fereydun from the Persian Shahnameh, with Allice Bernards, storyteller, and musicians Hamin Honari, tonbak and daf, and Ali Razmy, tar.

Kiviuq’s Journey—An Inuit Hero’s Epic Quest

One of the most ancient and beloved legends of the Inuit people. The great shaman hero has inspired generations with his terrifying adventures at sea, his meetings with strange beings, kindness to orphans, service to community, and his marriages with animals and birds. In 2004, traveling in Nunavut, Kira listened to forty Inuit elders, each telling this great epic in an individual way. Every telling was full of depth and humour and illuminated this ancient story in new ways. With the blessing of the elders, she has created this performance from the richness of material they offered her, adding cello music inspired by this story of epic adventure and by the great landscapes of the Canadian north. Two and a half hours with break. Also available in a shorter version for schools.

Listen to the story of Kiviuq and Bee Woman!

Listen to the story of Kiviuq meets his Fox Wife!

Woman of Steel
Long before the days of Genghis Khan, women warriors were fighting battles on the Asian steppes to protect family and friends. The warrior's spiritual path leads to an opening of the heart, allowing the bold and compassionate heroine to defeat her enemies, restore peace and prosperity to the land, find her life's partner, and bring her father back to life. Tuva is a small republic located at the center of Asia, world-famous for throat-singing and shamanism. Woman of Steel is one of Tuva's best-loved epic tales. Two hours, with break. This story inspired the music in Mountain Journey.

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The Horsetail Girl — A Sakha Tale
From the centre of Siberia, the story of a girl born in a plant and transformed into human form by an old shaman woman. This girl was sent from heaven to share her wisdom and beauty with people. On the way to her wedding with the brave hunter, Harzhit Bergen, an evil spirit stole her face and took her place. Will the destined lovers be reunited? This story is central to the spiritual life of the Sakha people. One hour, with break.

World Epic
A program of stories selected from Arabian Nights, Mabinogion, Monkey King (Journey to the West), Kalavala, Tibetan Gesar, Tuvan epic, the Irish Fiana, Ramayana of India. May include other storytellers when offered within the Vancouver area.

Here's a video clip of "The Birth of Hanuman" from the Ramanyana.

The Northern Stories
Shamanistic and animal power tales are full of transformations. A mother turns into a wolf to rescue her daughter, a tiger turns into a man and teaches a boy how to be a good hunter. A girl grows from a plant and a man learns to understand the languages of the animals. A shaman hero marries twice in the animal world, with an arctic fox and a Canada Goose. These are animals and birds “temporarily in human form”! The tales come from nomadic Turkic-language peoples who were already herding cattle in the time of Genghis Khan, hunting peoples of the taiga that they share with the Siberian tiger, and from arctic reindeer breeders and sea hunters on the Siberian side as well as Canadian Inuit hunters.

The stories help acquaint children and adults with northern cultures and open the door to discussion of ecological problems, relationships between people and animals, shape-shifting, the process of story-collecting, and the fate of indigenous peoples and their languages today. Their stories show how people have not only survived but lived well in environments that are often harsh - sustained by their families, their beliefs, and their sense of humor.

For Children
Tales from the North — Stories about people and animals, and the ways they interact in a northern environment — ways that involve both magic and extraordinary cleverness. Grades one and up. Programs of various lengths and content as needed.

For Teens and Adults
Stories about Storytellers — Tales of legendary storytellers in cultures from Asia and Europe, how they found the gift, the dangers they encountered, and the ways they passed their stories on. Epic tellers often undergo initiation similar to a shaman’s, and use music to call upon the spirit of story.

Tales of Animals and People — Some of the most powerful and endearing stories involve our relationships with animals. These are stories of friendship, marriage, shape-shifting and more.

The Hero’s Journey — Tales that follow the classic journey to bring back a loved one, to find treasure, to save one’s own soul.

Listen to an audio recording of the Tuvan tale "The Igil".
recorded at the Newman Wine Vaults in St. John's Newfoundland by CBC Radio (audio requires Mac users to install Quicktime if you don't have it.)

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Cello music for walking the labyrinth. Improvisations based on the ancient walk and on the energies of those present.

Kira is also a member of Trio Allegra, with Zelko Krakan (violin) and Sergey Maryshev (guitar), playing, Spanish, Latin, East European and classical music. Available for concerts and events.


Improvisational Music

No musical background necessary! Experience the joys of self-expression through musical sound.

Improvisational Music for Storytellers
For storytellers at all levels who would like to add a touch of music to their telling. Play with improvised sounds and rhythms using mainly the voice. Bring instruments if you have them. Then we’ll discuss and experiment with how a teller can use music to enhance a storytelling, as well as some of the ways it can go astray. Music can add atmosphere or provide a rest for absorbing story details. We’ll also discuss the process of storytellers and musicians working together.

Shamanism and Storytelling
An exploration of the connection between these ancient arts.

Educational background
Kira Van Deusen brings to professional storytelling and music a background which includes a BA in Russian Language and Literature from Cornell University and an MA in Folklore/Ethnography from Antioch University. She has done extensive research with indigenous people in Siberia and the Russian Far East. She has completed a three year course in improvisational music through "Music for People" and David Darling. Kira lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Storytelling Programs Music Workshops People Say...

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