by John Copley
(ANNews) – Perseverance usually pays off, just as it did earlier this month when the administration, teachers, students and parents at Crawford Plains Elementary School gathered to enjoy an afternoon of multicultural music and dance by Irish, East Indian, Metis, First Nations and other performers.
“It was a wonderful afternoon of dance and culture,” explained Stacey Telford who has two children attending the southeast Edmonton elementary school. “Each of the groups who participated did an outstanding job and everyone who attended really enjoyed the various performances.”
A crowd of about 300 people took in the event; many had never seen First Nations dancers in full regalia or watched Métis jiggers perform, attired in their traditional clothing.
“Every performance was really amazing to watch and you could tell by the attentive audience that everyone really enjoyed what each group brought to the floor,” said Telford. “I believe it was the school’s first multi-cultural event, but I am certain that it won’t be the last.”
One of the groups that performed was the Metis Child and Family Jiggers, an exciting group of young professional dancers sponsored by Métis Child and Family Services. Dancers participating at Crawford Plains included Luc Gauthier, Jolene Langford, Joel Gladue, Jillian Langford, Jada Langford and Jordan Langford.
Another group, The Running Thunder Dancers, created in 2010 by founder Adrian LaChance, delivered their spectacular brand of song, dance and storytelling. The group has participated at numerous venues and has danced in locations outside of Canada that include New Zealand, Mongolia, Beijing, Shanghai, United Kingdom, Holland and Germany.
“They are magnificent dancers and everyone in attendance during mini heritage days was awed by the beautiful regalia and pow wow attire,” noted Telford, who said that only a few people in the crowd had ever seen a pow wow dance or watched a hoop dancer perform on stage. “It was both lively and colourful and not something that anyone will soon forget. It was a great afternoon and hopefully one that we can repeat for years to come. The students really enjoyed the day; it was an ideal opportunity for everyone in attendance to learn about different cultures and how they each celebrate through song and dance.”
“We’ve been performing for several years now and we really enjoy the interaction we share with students and staff at the many schools we visit each year,” explained group leader, Adrian LaChance. “To date, we have visited with and performed at about 40 different schools in Edmonton and throughout the region. We’ve built a very positive relationship with both the Public and Catholic School systems and we enjoy the time we get to spend with the students.”
The First Nations dancers participating during the Crawford Plains mini heritage days afternoon were all members of Treaty 6 and included Adrian LaChance (Men’s Traditional), Dale Gadwa (Grass Dance), Daylin Cardinal, Nadia Paul and Jamie Medicine Crane (Jingle Dance), Wanyia Cardinal (Women’s Graceful), Darrell Breeton (Men’s Fancy Bustle), and Lakota Totoosis (Hoop Dance). Young Medicine, with members Curt Young and Jamie Medicine Crane, also performed a couple of songs; a contemporary dance closed out the day and included the participation of all dancers in attendance.
“Some of the adults and several students were also invited up to the main stage and you could tell by the smiles on their faces that they really enjoyed participating in the dance,” Telford added. “It was a fun time for all, but just as important was the message received by all of the students: we all have things in common and no matter what culture or background you come from we can all learn something when we participate together.”
The Running Thunder Dancers do more than perform songs for students; LaChance and other members of the group also visit schools and talk to the students about their futures and the importance of getting an education.
“One thing the Elders tell us,” noted LaChance, “is to persevere, to follow through on our commitments and above all to never give up, never quit, never throw in the towel so to speak. Quitters cannot win, thus it is imperative to move ahead, one day at a time, seeking the advice we need to succeed and locating the inner fortitude to see it through. We talk about self-esteem and personal identity; we talk about individual and collective empowerment, respect for self and others, finding harmony and contentment within ourselves. We encourage youth to stay in school, to respect parents, teachers and strangers and we put an emphasis on what can be accomplished when we work together to achieve our goals. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and we need them to be strong, independent, wise and thoughtful. Daily interaction and maintaining positive goals are key elements to a successful future and that is the message we deliver at every possible opportunity.”
The Running Thunder Dancers, noted LaChance, “is Alberta’s leading First Nations dance group that helps to promote health and wellness through song and dance. To dance is to heal, to heal is to give, to give is to love, to love is to dance.”
In addition to performing at schools, conferences, gatherings, celebrations and other venues, the Running Thunder Dancers and Adrian LaChance are also involved in such teachings as cultural awareness, protocol, values and beliefs, living a healthy life and finding the right balance in life. The group also offers workshops that deal with topics that include traditional life skills, bullying and lateral violence, goal setting, and understanding and improving self-esteem and self-worth.
For more information see the website at: runningthunderdancers.com. (All photos by Stacey Telford).