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Colour, flash, energy and unequalled talent: these are the defining qualities of the performances of the Wanuskewin Dance Troupe.
The troupe features 32 of the top powwow dancers Saskatchewan has to offer. It was designed to showcase the exceptional abilities that First Nation powwow dancers have developed through hard work and dedication.
The dancers first came together in June 1997 for a one-time performance at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon. Donnie Spiedel, the group's coordinator, says that the organizers wanted a show that people would remember. To achieve this, they invited recognized world champion powwow dancers from across Saskatchewan to perform at the event. The Red Bull Singers, a drum group from the Little Pine Cree Nation, were also invited to perform.
The exhibition proved to be extremely popular with all those in attendance. "The support was overwhelming," says Spiedel. Elders and community leaders who attended the event encouraged the formation of a permanent performance group.
Since then, the Wanuskewin Dance Troupe have been formally established. Wanuskewin supports the dancers with the goal of honouring them and showcasing their talents. "The individuals that dance in these shows have been recognized all over as champions," says Spiedel. Saskatchewan First Nations consistently produce powwow dancers who win championships at powwows across North America.
The challenge, as some see it, is that in the United States these talented Saskatchewan powwow dancers receive recognition; young people look to them as role models and heroes. But, Spiedel says, "Here at home we have nothing [like that]." The time has come, he believes, to promote Saskatchewan First Nation dancers at home. "We now want in-province recognition for them."
And one of the ways to do this is through performances of the Wanuskewin Dance Troupe. Spiedel describes the show as taking the contemporary and traditional and putting them on stage to produce something unique. "We've incorporated a lot of elements," he says. The show is choreographed and uses modern lighting and music techniques to create interest. The group also incorporates live narration of the
Spiedel maintains that the level of excellence the dancers have attained is visibly apparent in each of their exhibitions.
The Wanuskewin Dance Troupe has shared their gift of song and dance throughout the province. They were part of the grand opening of the permanent site of the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert and were also featured during the RCMP Tattoo in Saskatoon, celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the establishment of the RCMP.
They have also appeared at a number of community events says Spiedel, including an afternoon appearance at Nutana Collegiate in Saskatoon. In an attempt to give back to the community, the dancers arranged to perform a second time that day.
Approximately 350 people turned out to watch the evening show and were treated to a guest performance by Keith Secola.
These performances, says Spiedel, demonstrate the commitment of the 32 world champion powwow dancers in the Wanuskewin Dance Troupe to bring awareness of First Nation song and dance to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. These dancers are attempting to revitalize and honour the beauty and values of First Nation culture.