Heel. Step. Tippy Toe” … “Toe. Toe. Step” … “Heel. Toe. Step to the side” …
A whole lot of hopping, kicking and tapping went on at the Senior Citizens’ Centre on Saturday under the guidance of Amy Seesequasis and Angel Prosper.
For nearly two hours, the Creeland Dancers duo took an enthusiastic group through the high-energy steps of Métis jigging – the Red River Jig, La Danse du Crochet, and the polka – as lightning-fast fiddle music filled the air.
Midway through the session, dancers worked up such a sweat that front and side doors had to be opened. Bottles of water were also handed out.
“This is so good,” one of the younger dancers shouted out.
The jigging workshop was the culmination of the Métis month of March, an exploration of Métis traditions and culture with Chinook Regional Library and Metis Local #12, Western Region III.
Seesequasis, a Cree with Métis lineage from the Beardy’s and Okemasis’ First Nation, Treaty 6, interwove dance instruction with references to Indigenous history, cultural enrichment and reconciliation. She said her grandparents, who founded Creeland Dancers in the early 1980s, had attended residential schools and were raised in an age when Indigenous culture was under threat.
While nothing can be done to fix the past, said Seesequasis, something can be done for the present and future.
For Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to share space by dancing was a cause for pride as “our ancestors did not have this opportunity”.
“We are now working together to try to make a better way.”
Seesequasis, an artist and storyteller, said the original purpose of Creeland Dancers was to promote culture, a health lifestyle and create opportunity for youth.
Métis jigging was a unique fusion of dance forms, she said, with French, Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian influences.
“There is no right or wrong way to dance.”
She urged dancers to let their spirits find expression through their movements.
Seesequasis and Prosper ended the workshop with a rousing demonstration of the Orange Blossom Special. As dance steps grew quicker, clapping and cheering reflected the increased intensity.