Aboriginal Artists at a Critical Moment

By David P. Ball at The Tyee

Idle No More movement throws sharp spotlight on showcase of aboriginal creativity coming to Vancouver.

Can world-class arts and culture offer hope to struggling communities, and incubate tomorrow’s creators?

This year’s Talking Stick Festival hopes to prove it from Feb. 19 to March 3, showcasing some of the country’s best aboriginal dramatists, playwrights, musicians and dancers on a common stage.

One of the best-known acts this year is Sagkeeng’s Finest, the three-teenager dance troupe from Manitoba who won top prize on Canada’s Got Talent last year. Their community’s fast-paced, traditional Red River Jig, is now a household name across the country.

The renowned dancers are heading west to B.C. this month, performing their highly technical blend of jig, tap and square dance across the province. Their performance at Vancouver’s Talking Stick Festival will mark the festival’s 12th year — and two decades for its parent-company, Full Circle.

For Sagkeeng’s Finest manager Arnold Asham, the legions of screaming fans who have followed the teenagers’ success are not simply a symbol of celebrity or a newfound dance-mania — it’s actually a sign of hope for aboriginal youth everywhere.

“This is our purpose as Red River jiggers: to bring hope to our aboriginal communities that are suffering,” Asham tells The Tyee. “When they see these young boys on stage, they’re so proud.

“That’s why there’s so much screaming and shouting. We’re showing we can take something that’s already done in our communities to the world stage.”

Read more