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Northern Lights Dancers Maintain Culture Through Dance

Darren Deschambeault

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      POWWOW ISSUE 1999      v29 n02 p04  
Muskoday's Northern Lights dancers Muskoday's Northern Lights dancers

Since their beginning two years ago, Muskoday's Northern Lights dancers have experienced growth and well being in their pursuits as a dance troupe.

Motivation and self-esteem are the traits gained by their endeavors. Throughout the Prairie Provinces, the ten children have left their mark in the competitions they have entered, and their performances thus far, have paid off. Ranging in age from nine to thirteen years old, the children all work as a team, to compete.

The biggest competition they have been involved with, was in The Pas, Manitoba, where they took second in the junior category. There were fourteen teams entered. This made the troupe very proud.

"They're having clean fun, without the pressures of society." Todd Bear says. The troupe focuses on the Square Dance, which is a crowd favorite. With a fast, uptempo beat, it keeps the dancers on their toes, and the crowd at the edge of their seats. It is quite enjoyable. This is an old-time style of dance, which has been with us for many generations, and is a great form of cultural awareness for the people involved. Dancing has been with Native people for a long time. Todd Bear, the troupe's manager, would like these kids to pass on the square dance tradition to future generations, keeping it alive for others to enjoy.

The children enjoy meeting First Nations children from other provinces and communities throughout their travels. They practice once a week, throughout the dance season. Before competitions, they practice as much as three times in one week. Bear says, "The young children know that if they put 110 per cent in, that is what they will get out of it." They have also performed at Chiefs' conferences, and some national assemblies. The Northern Lights Dancers have strong local support in regards to fund raising, as well as moral support. They are all involved in the fund-raising efforts, which is accomplished predominantly through ticket sales.

"Culture is important for well being." Todd explained. He hopes this gets stronger as time goes on. "With this dance troupe and others like it, I am sure this aspect will survive, as well as get stronger. I know there are people who would like to see our heritage grow. Through practice, which keeps our children happy and motivated, you can bet that there will be future generations following the same dream, and nurturing the culture of all aboriginal people. Dancing has been around for thousands of years. The young people are maintaining their culture through hard work and dedication. Through dance, these children not only learn how to work well as a team, but they also grow in becoming good people. The kids learn to share and care for one another, as well as their competitors. By example and practice, they gain self-respect and a positive attitude. Through their acquired humility, they have learned to lose well and congratulate their opponents, maintaining positive relationships with one another."