The history of the Edmonton Mètis Traditional Dance Society

The Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers were established in the fall of 1985 by young students at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre (CNFC) in Edmonton. Georgina Donald, the cultural coordinator, believed it was essential for youth to engage with their culture through the arts in a fun and expressive way.

Initially, most of the original dancers had been taking lessons for over a year. These lessons, taught by dance instructor Moise White, were held every Sunday afternoon for two hours between September and April. White selected ten students to advance to a higher level of dance. During their first year, the dancers learned the basic steps and patterns of various traditional Métis dances, along with the theory behind them, including traditional music, timing, and cultural history.

Over the years, the dancers have promoted traditional Métis dances, celebrating the cultural heritage of their mixed ancestry (French, Scottish, Irish, and First Nations). Some of these traditional dances include the Duck Dance, Reel of Eight, Drops of Brandy, Reel of Four, and the Red River Jig. They also learned first changes and breakdowns, with square dances described by a square dance caller. The group has also mastered show dances that highlight their stepping abilities, such as the Orange Blossom Special, Broom Dance, Sash Dance, and Cotton Eyed Joe.

Today, the group consists of four generations of the Donald family, including the grandfather, sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Georgina Donald (Mother) & Lyle Donald (Son)

Edmonton Heritage Days Festival, Lyle and Georgina pose with the Mètis Prince in a local traditional competition.

Moise White and the Edmonton Mètis Traditional Dancers

[Photo taken in the Fall of 1985]

Dances of Rupertslands

Dances of Rupertsland: The Origins of Métis Dance and Music

The Birth of Métis Culture

When Europeans first arrived in North America, they were captivated by the land’s vast riches and the fur of its animals. To access these resources, they needed to engage with the First Nations people. This interaction marked the beginning of the trade era, where First Nations people were introduced to European weapons, which made hunting easier and provided protection. In exchange, they traded the game and furs they had hunted for centuries.

Cultural Exchange and Intermarriage

The economic partnership between Europeans and First Nations people brought their cultures closer together. Intermarriages became common, blending European and First Nations ways of life. The children of these unions, known as Métis, were the first people of mixed heritage in the land, bringing a new spirit to the west and establishing new communities.

The Rise of a New Culture

Métis children inherited the strengths of both cultures. They were bilingual, skilled in hunting and fur treatment, and deeply respected the cultural values of music and dance. European men, often the heads of these families, brought musical instruments like fiddles and taught their children traditional dances. As Métis communities grew, so did their unique culture, characterized by dances such as gigues, reels, and double-stepping.

Métis Dance and Music

Métis dance and music were shared and celebrated with both Métis and First Nations communities. The Métis created dances that reflected their cross-cultural heritage, including the Red River Jig, Duck Dance, Drops of Brandy, and Reel of Four. The Red River Jig, for example, incorporates elements from First Nations dances like the Grass Dance and Fancy Dance, showcasing the fusion of traditions.

Celebrating Cultural Unity

The Dances of Rupertsland Showcase highlights the similarities between Métis dances and the cultural music and dance of our guests. As we celebrate our Anniversary, it is a time for our cultures to come together in unity and pride.

About Dances of Rupertsland

Dances of Rupertsland is coordinated by the Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. The group has always promoted the true heritage of Métis dance and music, showcasing the vibrant and unique culture of the Métis people.

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Book the Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers for Your Event

The Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers are available for performances of various lengths: 20 minutes, 40 minutes, and 60 minutes. Our repertoire includes a range of traditional Métis dances, each rich in cultural heritage and history.

Traditional Métis Dances:

  • Red River Jig
  • Métis Sash Dance
  • Duck Dance
  • Reel of Four
  • Broom Dance
  • Drops of Brandy
  • Reel of Eight
  • Traditional Métis Square Dancing (including First and Second Changes, as well as Breakdowns)

In addition to our dances, we offer traditional Métis storytelling through our Emcee, Lyle Donald, who brings the culture and history of the Métis to life.

For booking information and to schedule a performance, please contact us today.