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August 12, 2019

Discover Traditional Métis Dance

Get ready to get up on your feet at this month’s free, family-friendly performance featuring Traditional Métis Dance by V’ni Dansi’s Louis Riel Métis Dancers. Meaning “Come and Dance” in Michif, V’ni Dansi is thrilled to share the Métis people’s joyful culture with audiences of all nations. Hear from Yvonne Chartrand, Artistic Director, as she talks about her love of culture, dance and what you can expect at their show:

  1. How would you describe your artistic practice to someone who isn’t familiar with your work?

[Yvonne Chartrand] “V’ni Dansi, formed in 2000, holds the distinction of being the only company in Canada to perform both traditional Métis and contemporary dance. In 2001, the company formed the group The Louis Riel Métis Dancers who remain dedicated to preserving traditional Métis dance. The Métis have a distinct Indigenous culture within Canada and have mixed First Nations and European ancestry. Métis traditional dances blend European and First Nations dances, creating a unique, intricate and dynamic form.

The traditional style of Métis dance is distinct from the newer contemporary form in both movement and clothing. The traditional style dictates more subtle movements with feet not coming higher than the anklebone and steps sounding like a running horse whereas the contemporary style dictates high steps often with “clickers” shoes and has evolved to include more rhythms. As the contemporary style is prevalent at most Métis dance festivals, there are very few people or groups who specialize in or even know about the traditional style. I had spent many years with Métis Elders learning these styles which she has passed on to the Louis Riel Métis Dancers who continue to pass their knowledge on to the thousands of youth we work with each year.”

  1. How long have you been a performing artist?

[Yvonne] “I did my first Mètis dance performance in Winnipeg with the Gabriel Dumont Dancers at the Native Pavilion for Folklorama in 1985 exactly one hundred years after Louis Riel’s prophecy: 

"My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awaken it will be the Artists who give them their spirit back"  Louis Riel, July 4th, 1885”

  1. What is your favourite part of performing?

[Yvonne] “Our favourite part of performing is that we love sharing our Métis culture with audience members and workshop participants. Our music and dances are so joyful, people are often dancing in their chairs even before we invite them up. Traditional Métis dances are social dances that are danced by everyone in our communities which is why we absolutely love inviting everyone to dance after we perform! We love to see the joy our dances bring to people of all ages and cultures and the social interaction that brings closeness and friendships. We always have fun jigging with our audiences!”

  1. What do you like about performing for young people? 

[Yvonne] “I love to see the joyful reactions when young people first experience our music and dances for the first time. A huge smile of joy comes on their faces and they begin clapping and dancing in their seats! Young people are such natural dancers, they are always eager and enthusiastic to dance to the joyful Métis fiddle music! Sometimes we invite them to do a moose calling competition or leg wrestling competition. So many of them run up to us afterwards to tell us how much fun they had. 

I also love all the inquisitive questions they ask and the complex and intense conversations about our history and tumultuous past that sometimes result afterwards. Sharing our truth and realities about our past and our history makes them think about their own culture. I love to share about how we learn our traditions orally and encourage them to learn about their own cultures by visiting with their own elders or grandparents just as we have learned from our Elders and knowledge keepers.” 

  1. What are some of the outcomes you hope young people will take away from your performance?

[Yvonne] “The cultural experience we aim to create can reach out to Métis, Indigenous, and non-Indigenous youth in profound ways while they have loads of fun dancing with us! We hope that they can have a deeper understanding of our Métis history, dances, music and culture and that they can share this knowledge with their family, friends and communities. We hope that if they are ever in one of our communities, festivals or events they will be comfortable to step out and join in the fun and feel like they belong and have a kindred connection.”

Check out their performances on Saturday, August 24 at the ArtStarts Gallery in Vancouver and on Sunday, August 25 at River Market in New Westminster. 

Each 45-minute performance takes place twice, at 11am and 1pm. Please arrive a little early as this is a popular program. Ideal for ages 7 and under, but all are welcome. Free! Donations welcome!

 

Thank you to Westminster Savings for supporting this monthly event at River Market.

 

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