The Damelahamid dancers headline the 2022 Vancouver International Children’s Festival which kicks off May 31.
An Indigenous dance group from the northwest coast of British Columbia can finally share their stories and performances at the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, after COVID-19 derailed their chances in 2020 and 2021.
The West Vancouver-based Damelahamid Dancers bring together family members to perform Gitxsan and Cree stories through dance during the week-long festival, which runs from May 31 to June 5.
Artistic director and founder Margaret Grenier said the band were really excited to perform, having “waited and waited” for the opportunity to perform again at the festival which she described as one that incorporates many voices and experiences. different.
“It’s really nice to be able to come together again, to be able to do the work with a focus on young people. … A very big part of our mandate and our focus is on shows for young people.
As an Indigenous dance company, Grenier said that in addition to the importance of sharing stories, songs and stories with the public, focusing on young people “is just a beautiful way to share, because there has such openness among young people.
The group’s focus on young people, Grenier said, is due to two reasons: When she was growing up, she felt shy, “and even ashamed,” about sharing her culture with her peers and the wider community.
“When you’re with your community, you’re immersed in something and you celebrate those practices, but then…it was kind of daunting to share that outside of that,” she explained. “And I think it’s so important that our Indigenous youth grow up with this really grounded place, and their own identity, and be able to share that with the wider community.”
Grenier said the cross-cultural relationship building that comes from the performances impacted not only the audience, but also the dancers in the group.
“It leaves a very important impression on our young audience, and to carry that with you and have that relationship as part of how our young people form and shape their understanding of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous history here on these land,” she said. mentioned.
“[In the context of] our contemporary practices, I think it’s really important to… have those experiences in a really enjoyable way, and not just in the form of learning in school, but having something that comes out and enjoying the time spent whole.
For the children’s party, the group will present its Spirit and tradition dance, which Grenier says focuses on connecting to the lands, caring for each other, and caring for resources.
“So we can see ourselves as part of an integral part of our ecosystem, and how that is valued in our ancestral teachings.
“[We didn’t] adapt lessons in song and dance. Singing and dancing is our way of conveying and sharing these teachings and therefore sharing this space within our traditional form, but we have also incorporated screening and other production elements to help help our audience understand what he sees,” she said.
Vancouver International Children’s Festival
When: May 31 to June 5, 2022 in person on Granville Island and May 31 to June 12 online. Visit the festival website for more information.
Charlie Carey is the Indigenous and Civic Affairs reporter for North Shore News. This pace of reporting is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.