Yvonne Chartrand, Artistic Director of V’ni Dansi and one of The Dance Centre’s Artists-in-Residence this season, introduces the 11th Annual Louis Riel Day Celebration which takes place on November 12:
In the summer of 2003 I met prominent senior Métis artist and elder, Maria Campbell at Batoche, Saskatchewan. We immediately made a strong connection and I asked her to be my mentor. She shared many traditional teachings and advised me to seek out prominent Métis artists such as John Arcand, Jeanne Pellitier and Andrea Menard as well as Robin Poitras from New Dance Horizons as a mentor for contemporary dance. I learned about the traditional style of dance and clothing and set out to pass this knowledge onto my traditional Métis dance group – the Louis Riel Métis Dancers and many youth and communities across Canada. Maria invited me to perform for her Louis Riel Day Celebrations in Saskatoon in 2004 and 2005, where she invited many Métis artists from across Canada. This inspired V’ni Dansi ’s first Annual Louis Riel Day Celebration in 2006 here in Vancouver with a contemporary dance-theatre production of The Crossing, which shares the stories of the Métis resistances from our perspective. Maria was instrumental as mentor, writer and director for The Crossing, which then toured to Saskatoon for four sold out performances.
Over the last 10 years V’ni Dansi has had many guests artists perform and celebrate the life of our hero and leader, Louis Riel, who had this prophecy: “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awaken it will be the Artists who give them their spirit back”. The celebration has included contemporary and traditional Métis dance, storytellers, poets, singers, songwriters, musicians and guest artists of the West Coast First Nations. Louis Riel Day Celebrations have offered the opportunity to support the artistic development and presentation of our young dance artists including two solo works and a quartet by Madelaine McCallum, a gifted up-and-coming choreographer.
This evening is vital to the healing of our people. Our Elder Tom McCallum states, “It is important to understand our history, to acknowledge the oppression we have suffered, and recognize the significance of our emergence as a people known as Métis.” The Métis people have mixed European and First Nations ancestry and are a unique culture with their own culture, language, values and beliefs - with some diversity that varies between communities and geographic regions.
This year I am thrilled to have been gifted this artist residency with The Dance Centre supporting my artistry as a choreographer in both Indigenous contemporary and Métis dance and the production of our 11th Annual Louis Riel Day Celebration. This evening will feature the world premiere of my solo Eagle Spirit and traditional and contemporary Métis dance performed by the Louis Riel Métis Dancers. Award-winning musician JJ Lavallee and his band will provide some dynamic fiddle playing from back home in Manitoba that will certainly possess you to jump out of your chairs and step out onto the dance floor with a good old Métis Dance party after the performance. I look forward to seeing you all there.
V’ni Dansi, Come and Dance!
V’ni Dansi, in partnership with The Dance Centre, presents its annual Louis Riel Day Celebration featuring Yvonne Chartrand’s new solo Eagle Spirit, and traditional Métis dances and music from The Louis Riel Métis Dancers.
Saturday November 12, 2016 at 8pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Photo: Chris Randle