In May 2016 I was invited to return to Calgary for the Puppet Power 2016: Connecting Generations conference. I was asked to do an 8 minute presentation on the theme of Elder Wisdom. I spent months worrying, contemplating, and revisiting how to synthesize the immensity that is elder wisdom from the perspective of the hoop dance into 8 short minutes. After all, the hoops only encompass, ALL OF CREATION! An intimidating task for anyone, and I certainly do not consider myself an expert on the topic of elder wisdom. Dance on the other hand, I hope I have learned some things over the past decade, especially after years of researching, interviewing, and working closely with several senior artists as mentors in dance and performance. Although, I was told that it takes ten years to become competent in the dance and twenty years to master it. So, according to these standards, I still have a long way to go… Which reflects what elders often say, ‘I don’t know anything’ or ‘I am still learning’ or ‘I only know what I have experienced’ are common insights I have heard from different elders. This is true. A person can only know what they have experienced or been taught. However, our elders have had significantly more experiences than us. This is a key aspect of Elder Wisdom.
When I began learning the hoop dance, Jerry First Charger, my teacher and master hoop dancer, shared that each hoop represents a challenge in your life. The more that you go through the hoops represents how you handle the challenges in your life. As you continue to hoop dance, you get better, faster, stronger. The same thing goes for challenges in life, the more you go through those challenges, the stronger and wiser you become.
Most people see the beauty of the hoop dance, but what people often fail to see, as the late Basil Johnston wrote, is the struggle within the dance. As the hoop dancer transitions from one shape to the next, they struggle to maneuver through the hoops. So the hoop dance represents the beauty in life as well as the struggle in life. So in it's entirety it represents the Beautiful Struggle of Life.
This is where elder wisdom comes in. Our elders having gone through significantly more experiences than us, and have had to go through more hoops than us. They have overcome many more struggles than we can imagine. I think this is evident if you have ever sat with an elder to listen to their life story.
For me, this sums up the true meaning of Elder Wisdom, having gone through the beautiful struggle of life long enough, having survived and overcome the many challenges, successfully navigating through life’s hoops to be able to know how to successfully navigate the challenges life throws your way.
To share that Elder Wisdom with the youth to guide them on their journey through the Beautiful Struggle of Life is how we Connect Generations.
“Wendy's Highlight: I was moved by Sandra Lamouche's raw and honest hoop dancing wisdom - particularly as she caught her breath to say the struggle of accomplishing the dance itself is a reminder of the struggle of life and the importance of building resiliency.” - WP Puppet Theatre Newsletter
'Cree Woman Speaking' is a space to share my voice. My goal is to spread awareness and share wisdom as I learn and grow as a dancer, choreographer, and woman. My passion is to show the healing power of dance and culture. I love learning from elders, experience, and research and being able to synthesize Native and non-Native ways of knowing!
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