This autobiographical solo uses Contemporary Indigenous Dance, hip hop, and hoop dancing to tell my story as a dancer and a Cree woman. The intent of this piece is to show how culture, story, and ceremony can guide towards healing in a post-colonial/ contemporary society. I believe healing is the first step on the path towards well-being and self-determination for First Nations communities and nations.
To tell my story I use a tutu, hoodie, and hoops – that represent the three stages I have gone through as the title of the piece suggests: Nimihitow Iskwew (Dancing Woman): A Cree Woman’s Journey through Life and Dance. My mother first put me in tap and ballet classes because I was pigeon toed; this was my first experience with the healing power of dance. I continued in Western dance styles such as tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and modern and eventually was chosen for solos. Even after spending years with the same group of girls several times a week in dance classes I never developed friendships. I was the only Native girl in the class and came from a large family with low income. I did not ‘fit’ the stereotype that mainstream society had envisioned of what dancer should be and look like. I quit dance altogether and found alternative, self-destructive, ways to fill the time that was once occupied by up to five dance classes a week, plus weekend solo work. I did not fit into mainstream identities and fell into expressions of identity that were often negative and stereotypical ideas of First Nations. It wasn’t until I learnt the hoop dance and contemporary Indigenous Dance that I found a healthy balance between my passion for dance and my identity. As I began to hoop dance I learnt many cultural stories and teachings. I began to live my life according to these traditions. This month I am celebrating eight years abstaining from alcohol and have been a professional hoop dancer since 2005.
I began developing this piece in 2011 after studying the cycle of creation – destruction – and re-creation discussed by Anishnaabe (Ojibway) spoken word artist and scholar Dr. Leanne Simpson in her book “Dancing on our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence” (2011). I use this resurgence theory in my piece 'Sagowsko', about the Anishnaabe hoop dance story, which you can read more about here.
Although this project began to take shape five years, it has taken me until now to reach a point in my life where I am able to tell my story. I feel that I am where I need to be, or where I am meant to be. All aspects of my life are aligned including, my job, dance, family, and ceremonial life, so that I can fulfill my purpose in life, which is to create and promote culture and dance as a way towards well-being - spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental.
The piece debuted at "Hip, Hoop, Hooray" in October 2015, for the 10th anniversary of learning the hoop dance. (See some of the other performances here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d07Dm7ojtmg)
I will be performing this solo piece for the Slave Lake Native Friendship Center (SLNFC) Youth Conference “Rekindling Your Spirit” March 18-20.
I have also been invited to perform for the Lethbridge Society of Independent Dance Artists (LSIDA) fundraiser on April 2, 2016 at the CASA Lethbridge at 7pm, tickets $20.
Please join us at either of these events, where I will be sharing my passion alongside other talented dancers!