“This was the most important, creative and bolstering outreach I have had the fortune to organize”
These are the words of Sioned Watkins, NAC Dance Education Associate and Teaching Artist, following a week of dance workshops and outreach programs she organized in collaboration with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB). Sioned worked closely with Jamie Vargas, the RWB Ballet Master and Outreach Specialist, who was in Ottawa together with the RWB to present Going Home Star a ballet which told the story of residential schools in Canada. Sioned and Jamie developed programs specifically for Indigenous youth based on the ballet’s theme of truth and reconciliation.
From January 25 through 29, Sioned and Jamie conducted 17 dance workshops reaching over 450 Indigenous youth. Highlights included Jamie’s visits to R.E. Wilson, Elgin Street and Queen Elizabeth Public Schools to give 30 minute dance workshops to elementary school children. His kindergarten workshop at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre was truly inspiring, as was his 2-hour movement workshop with Propeller Dance a company for mixed ability dancers. A dancer with Propeller Dance said “Jamie’s visit was not just exciting and uplifting, he was able to help us understand the concepts of ballet from the perspective of energy lines through the body, a concept we can use in our own practice to make us stronger dancers”.
In addition to the community and school outreach, NAC Dance and the NAC’s Share the Spirit program welcomed 96 Indigenous youth to see Going Home Star for free. The youth represented groups from the Wabano Centre, Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre, Urban Aboriginal Alternate High School, and Richard Pfaff Alternative High School.
“I am an Anishinaabe woman living in 2016 and I feel this huge importance for Aboriginal peoples to see their culture being represented and celebrated on stage in a positive way…which is what Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation programs do very well. Only by rediscovering and teaching our children the beauty and moral values of our traditions can we build a stronger community and encourage brighter futures. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who was involved in this project”. Brittany Johnston