TSF reflects resurging Native arts

By Alexander Varty at Georgia Straight

According to founding member Marilyn Jensen, the Tlingit cultural troupe known as the Dakka Kwaan Dancers started out as a “mistake”: a failed attempt by some young residents of Carcross, in the Yukon, to capitalize on the tourists who were coming their way from the nearby Alaskan port of Skagway. In a move reminiscent of those old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musicals, the performers decided to put on a show, albeit one with an aboriginal twist. Their plan, back in 2007, was to animate the Tlingit creation myth of how Raven brought light into the world with little more than one cedar hat, a traditional shawl, and a handful of drums.

“By the end of the summer, we realized that not that many tourists had come to see us,” Jensen recalls, calling in from Carcross. “But we also realized we had the core of something really cool, so we started learning more songs, and the group started building.”

Three years on, the Dakka Kwaan Dancers have become one of B.C.’s most acclaimed First Nations performance troupes. In fact, they’re emblematic of a greater resurgence in aboriginal culture that’s taking place all over Canada—a phenomenon that’s at the heart of the 2010 edition of the Talking Stick Festival, at various Vancouver venues from Sunday to the following Sunday (February 21 to 28). (The Dakka Kwaan Dancers perform with the Nunavut-based circus troupe Artcirq and others at the Britannia Community Centre on Monday [February 22]. For a full schedule, visit the festival Web site).

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