Summer Bear Dance Troupe, a Folklorama Teachings member group, were in Wabowden from June 4-5. During their time in the northern community, the group held workshops as well as a powwow at Mel Johnson School.
Barbara Nepinak, founder and co-ordinator of the dance troupe, says it’s important to share their knowledge with the younger generation. “Some of these kids come from isolated communities, and don’t have the opportunity to see dancers and drummers. To have a setting like this, and engage them is perfect.”
On June 4 Folklorama facilitated five different drumming workshops, which Tarance Campbell, a student at Mel Johnson School, said was his favourite part. “The workshops were awesome. I got to learn how to drum, and even to use the drum for a bit myself.” Campbell says it was great having the adults there teaching, since they don’t get to experience that often.
Folklorama visited Wawbowden last year for their Grow North Conference, says Leona McIvor, school counsellor. Because of the positive feedback, they wanted them to come back again this year. “We get them to come up here because our kids need to learn their tradition and their culture. They’re interactive with the kids, they don’t leave anyone out and they’re very helpful. They have a lot of knowledge and skills.”
During the two days of workshops six other schools from Frontier School Division’s Area 1 attended. South Indian Lake, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids, Ilford, Thicket Portage and Gilliam took in both days, and Nelson House brought in 45 students for the first day of workshops.
Nepinak noted that children remembered her from last year, and because those connections were made, it makes the whole experience even better for the troupe.
During the final afternoon the students piled into the gymnasium where all six members of Summer Bear Dance Troupe took part in a powwow. Nepinak was behind the microphone explaining the different types of dances to the students and Clifford Spence sang and played the drums for the dancers.
Chuck Spence, Candy Berthelet and Melissa Nepinak offered the students different types of traditional dances that happen during a powwow, and then the children even got to take part in some dancing.
For Jonah Campbell that was his favourite part of the two days, watching the younger children get involved and dance like no one was watching.
McIvor says they will be asking Summer Bear Dance Troupe and Folklorama back again in 2016, but would like to add storytellers into the Grow North Conference as well.
Nepinak finished the day off by thanking Folklorama for bringing them to Wabowden. “Being connected with Folklarama has broadened our horizons. We do a lot of our own bookings as well, but being a part of a multi culture group makes a big difference nationally and internationally. They’re promoting culture and diversity.”
Debra Zoerb, executive director of Folklorama, says that is what they try to do with every performance. “Our entire mandate is celebrating diversity and promoting cultural understanding. Any chance we have to be able to do that, and our member artists have the chance to do that, we’re thrilled.”