Three students from the Penticton Indian Band’s Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School will be bringing their moves to the 12th annual Indigenous Youth Dance Show in Toronto, Ont., on May 23.
The students have been working on a choreographed number by Vancouver resident and choreographer Jordan Fassina since November 2018. Fassina is with the organization Outside Looking In, which hosts the dance show and is a nationally-registered charity organization that aims to empower Indigenous youth through the transformative art of dance while they pursue their education.
Grade 7 student Gracianah Gallicano, one of the dancers heading to Toronto, said she joined the dance troupe because it “sounded fun and I love to dance and perform in front of people.” She said she’s happy to see the dance and their hard work finally come together, with just under one month to perfect their routine.
Delaney Pierre, Grade 8, is another student that joined the group after moving to the area recently. She said she’s thankful that Gallicano has helped her catch up on learning the choreography and she’s excited to travel across the country.
“When you go into something new you’re going to have some doubts, and I wasn’t sure how it would work. But after getting to know the kids and seeing their progress and being able to get to know them a lot more, it’s been a very rewarding experience,” said Fassina, who said this is his first time teaching dance through this program. “Dance is a language, you just use your body with it and you gain more self-awareness through dance. Your confidence builds, you feel more comfortable with yourself and you’re able to take more risks – and those skills are transferable to things outside of movement.”
Fassina said he’s feeling confident with the routine he and his dancers will be bringing to the show. He explained that he flies in from Vancouver to help them practice once a month, with the students committing to practice on their own as well.
“They submit videos from their practice on their own time, and sometimes they’ll work on it during recess or teachers from the school will get involved and help them out,” said Fassina. “It sets a good community effort because everyone is participating in some way, shape or form.”
Before the show on May 23, the students will participate in a dance camp for two weeks where they get to interact with “other Indigenous youth around the country and see what they’ve learned.”
“Dance is just a normal part of the human experience. You play music and babies will move around and wobble around. It’s something that’s just natural to us. When you really immerse yourself in that and connect with other people who, even though they’re from different communities, you realize the commonalities you have with other people. With them experiencing this with communities that have been doing it longer, they get to see dancers with a higher skill set and that’s something to aspire to,” said Fassina.
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