Beauty of ballet meets power of powwow in Alberta

Article content

One is serene and flowing, while the other makes the heart race with fast-paced movements and accompanying beating drums. But for the next six weeks, Indigenous youth will be immersed in the joys of both classical ballet and powwow dancing.

A new partnership between Alberta Ballet and the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) is bringing 20 youths into the studio to participate in hour-long classes once a week. They’ll have 30 minutes of ballet, taught by Alberta Ballet outreach teacher Helen Cox, and 30 minutes of powwow dancing, taught by Leslee Mills from the council. Each student receives a free pair of ballet slippers and a free pair of moccasins to dance in.

Article content

An exciting new education collaboration between Alberta Ballet and the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) is proving that dance is truly a universal language at the Alberta Ballet School studios in Calgary on Tuesday. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

“When ISCA approached Alberta Ballet with this idea to collaborate, we literally jumped at the chance,” said Taryn Samson, director of Alberta Ballet community programming. “It was the perfect fit to increase access to ballet for children who wouldn’t normally get to experience it. Our goals are aligned, and we believe this could be the start of an exciting, long-term partnership.”

Although visually different, both ballet and powwow have histories of celebration and self-expression. Indigenous Peoples have traditionally performed powwows to mark a successful hunt or a victorious battle. Ballet originated in the 15th century during the Renaissance and was reserved for celebrations in European courts. 

ballet
Dancers participate in a new education collaboration between Alberta Ballet and the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

Funded by the Alberta Ballet Foundation, these classes are part of Alberta Ballet’s outreach programs aimed at reducing barriers for more youths to experience and enjoy the benefits of dance for physical, mental and social health. Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta promotes holistic health and wellness opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, their families and their communities through sport, physical activity, recreation and culture.

dance
Dancers participate in a new education collaboration between Alberta Ballet and the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

“At the ISCA, we are always looking for partnerships that can provide new opportunities and reduce barriers for Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. Partnering with Alberta Ballet was a great fit as it brought together both sport and culture for youth that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise,” said Kyra Buchan, ISCA sports co-ordinator.

“We are thankful to Alberta Ballet for creating a space for our youth to learn a new skill in ballet, while incorporating room for cultural dance and growth. We look forward to more exciting things to come.”

dance
Dancers participate in a new education collaboration between Alberta Ballet and the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia
ballet shoes
Footwear from the program at Alberta Ballet School studios in Calgary on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

Share this article in your social network