Dances of Rupertsland
Dances of Rupertsland is the story of the origins of Métis dance and music and culture. When the Europeans first arrived to North America they seen the vast riches of the land and the fur of the animals knew they had to deal with the first people of this land. Which was the beginning of the trade era when First Nations people first seen the European weapons that could be easier to hunt game and protect themselves and the cost for these weapons were the game they had hunted for years and the fur trade began. Not only did the economic partnership bring these two cultural groups together, the fascination of the others way of life brought the two together. Many intermarriages brought together the way of life they shared at that time the hunt and the preservation of the fur and hides of the animals for the sales of top quality products for the European markets. As the new families grew from the joining of these two cultural groups a new people of the land was born (half-breed) Métis people, the first people of the land were building in great numbers and started new communities in the west bringing a new spirit to the land. The children of these new families carried the strength of the two cultures they were born into, the ability to speak two languages their parents spoke, the knowledge of hunting and treating of furs and hides and the respect for the cultural values of music and dance to celebrate the building of new communities and a new culture. Because the men were the heads of the families it was important for them to teach their children the culture they grew up in back in Europe and many did bring their own musical instrument usually a fiddle and they taught them the dances of their land. As the Métis communities grew in the west so did their culture many of the gigues, reels and double stepping steps and music brought the communities together. Music and dance was shared between the Métis and First Nations and brought them together in many gatherings. There has always been a respect between the two cultures and Métis were lucky to be able to practice both cultures as they were from both worlds. Métis people created their own dance that reflected their cross cultural values and dances like the Red River Jig, the Duck Dance, Drops of Brandy and Reel of Four were created from respect of both of our cultures. In the Red River Jig many of the changes in the dance came from our First Nations heritage such as the (cross over step) which reflects the steps of the Grass Dance and the fast high stepping from the Fancy Dance which are part of the pow-wow dance competition. When you take in tonight’s performances you will see many of the similarities of our Métis dances in our guest’s presentations of their cultural music and dance. We are all one people when it comes to our celebration of dance music and pride, this is a good time for our cultures to come together as we are celebrating National Aboriginal Day this week. Dances of Rupertsland is coordinated by the Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers who are celebrating their 30th Anniversary as a community group. The Edmonton Métis Dancers have always promoted the true heritage of Métis dance and music.
The Edmonton Caledonian Country Dance Society (ECCDS) has its roots in the University of Alberta SCD Club, formed as a non-profit society in 1962. Two professors, Peter Barton and Jeff Weston, taught weekly classes, and, in 1974 a team of demonstration dancers represented our club at Expo in Spokane, Washington. The club was incorporated under The Societies Act in 1976. In 1978 club members were introduced to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS), our society becoming an affiliate member at that time. Today we remain primarily a teaching club, furthering the standards set by the RSCDS in 1923. RSCDS was formed in Glasgow, Scotland in November of that year, by Miss Jean Milligan and Mrs. Stewart of Fasnacloich. Their concern was two-fold: 1) that Scottish dance would be lost to modern dance forms if not preserved somehow; and 2) to standardize the traditional figures and dances. Scottish country dances and their music were culled from old manuscripts and papers and from people old enough to remember the ceilidhs held in homes and at social gatherings. Miss Milligan relied, especially, on her own mother’s excellent memory of dances and figures. The first collection of dances was produced shortly after the society’s inception and included The Triumph and Flowers of Edinburgh. All dances were traditional in step and formation, some dating back over 200 years.
Founded in August 2002, Zéphyr is the performance troupe of l’Association la Girandole and is based in Edmonton. This performing ensemble offers many opportunities for talented artists of the community to develop their potential by performing on stages of various sizes across the city, the province, the country and even internationally. Calling all dancers ages 16 and up, Zéphyr takes pride in their pursuit for high level and quality in traditional French Canadian step dance. Zéphyr presents a dynamic image of the Franco-Albertan culture to highlight the Association’s vitality, and contribute to the development and visibility of the French-speaking community in Edmonton, in Alberta, and throughout all of Western Canada. Combining traditional and modern elements, Zéphyr will amaze you with their energy and professionalism. Being a part of Zéphyr is much more than a simple leisure activity. The quality of its productions depends on the talent, hard work, commitment and level of professionalism of its artists.
Edmonton’s First Nations Finest
Are a group of experienced pow-wow dancers from the city of Edmonton. Lead by Martha Campiou these dancers have been assembled to represent the First Nations community in Edmonton and surrounding area. Martha has been a big part of the Edmonton Aboriginal landscape as she was a former leader of the White Braid Society and a long time President of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre. As with the Edmonton Métis Dancers most of the dancers in this group are third or fourth generation dancers.
The Edmonton Métis Dancers
The Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers were formed in the fall of 1985, with young people who were taking dance classes at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre (CNFC), Edmonton. The cultural coordinator Georgina Donald though it was important for young people to learn their culture in a fun way and in a way they can express themselves through the arts. At the time most of the original dancers had taken lessons for over a year, which were taught every Sunday afternoon for two hours between September and April. Dance instructor, Moise White, picked ten of the kids to advance to a higher level of dance. During the first year of their lessons, they were taught the basic steps and patterns of the different Métis traditional dances. They were also taught the theory of the dance, which include traditional music, timing and history of our culture. Over the years, the dancers have been promoting all of the traditional Métis dances, therefore reflecting the cultural heritage brought by our mixed ancestry (the French, Scottish, Irish and First Nations). Traditional dances include: the Duck Dance, Reel of Eight, Drops of Brandy, Reel of Four and the Red River Jig. They were also taught several first changes and breakdowns, with all of the square dances being described by a square dance caller. The group has also learned other show dances that profile their stepping ability including: the Orange Blossom Special, Broom Dance, Sash Dance and the Cotton Eyed Joe. Currently the group is made up of three generations of the Donald Family, including grandfather, sons and daughters and grandchildren.