Participants of the inaugural Artsdance work together to raise a tipi | Photo: Amy Jo Espetveidt

Looking Back at Artsdance

Inaugural event connects communities through arts and Indigenous learning

Helen Moore-Parkhouse

The inaugural Artsdance event on June 23, 2016 fits beautifully under the umbrella of Creative Connected Calgary.

Led by Iiniistsi Treaty Arts Society, Artsdance is an Intertribal gathering of Calgary-based artists, arts organizations, non-profits, educational institutions and Treaty 7 First Nations focused on making Calgary a more inclusive, aware, creative and connected place for all.

The long-term vision is that Artsdance will become a four-day annual event that takes place around the Summer solstice (June 21), but for this first test year it was a one-day event held on June 23, 2016 at the Mount Royal University amphitheatre.

To kick off Artsdance, two tipis were raised at Mount Royal University | Photos: Amy Jo Espetveidt

To kick off Artsdance, two tipis were raised at Mount Royal University | Photos: Amy Jo Espetveidt

Elders Raymond and Gretta Manybears (who is a traditional hide-tanner, hide-worker and quill artist) acted as cultural advisors for the day. Raymond started with a blessing before guiding us through the process of raising their handmade tipi, something most of us had never done before.

Throughout the afternoon the 60-or-so Artsdance participants took part in a number of hands-on activities led by TELUS Spark, Beakerhead, Antyx, Green Fools, and MRU. From decorating the stage to interactive icebreakers and construction activities, from circus school to an empathy-building exercise, participants quickly got into the easy-going collaborative energy of the day, getting to know each other and working together to create, explore and express new ideas. A sprinkling of rain didn’t dampen any spirits and provided a great reason to go inside one of the tipis to view a series of videos including Youth Indigenous Initiatives Videos that came out of one of the programs Antyx had run during the year.

A delicious outdoor dinner was the perfect segue from the informal collective activities of the afternoon into a more structured evening performance on the amphitheatre stage. Performers included La Caravan Dance Theatre (contemporary dance), Maria Farahat (youth contemporary dance), the Union Choir (song), Dean Bareham (clown), Justin Manyfingers (contemporary dance), Gage Beaver (spoken word), Amy Theissan (song), Jessica Barrera (aerial dance), Alanna Onespot (spoken word), and Eya-Hey Nakoda (traditional drum and dance).

At the end of the program the audience joined the performers on stage for one big round dance, bringing the event to a close. Almost. There was one more activity to be completed. Everyone present pitched in to strip the stage of streamers, disassemble equipment, take the tipis down, and collect every last bit of debris to ensure the site was left exactly as it was found. The only trace that anything had taken place at the amphitheatre that day was the camaraderie that continues to linger long after Artsdance passed its first year test.

The afternoon was filled with casual drop-in activities presented by local organizations including Mount Royal University (top), Beakerhead (middle left), Antyx (middle right), Green Fools (lower middle), and TELUS Spark (bottom left), as well as a group video presentation (bottom right) | Photos: Amy Jo Espetveidt

The afternoon was filled with casual drop-in activities presented by local organizations including Mount Royal University (top), Beakerhead (middle left), Antyx (middle right), Green Fools (lower middle), and TELUS Spark (bottom left), as well as a group video presentation (bottom right) | Photos: Amy Jo Espetveidt

AFTER A FRIENDLY GROUP DINNER, VARIOUS PERFORMANCES AND VIGNETTES WERE SHOWN ON THE MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY AMPHITHEATRE STAGE INCLUDING A NEW WORK FROM JUSTIN MANYFINGERS (TOP), AN AERIAL DANCE FROM JESSICA BARRERA (MIDDLE LEFT), A CLOWN PIECE FROM DEAN BAREHAM (MIDDLE RIGHT), AND AN EXCERPT FROM LA CARAVAN DANCE THEATRE’S LATEST CREATION, FIHI MA FIHI (BOTTOM) | PHOTOS: AMY JO ESPETVEIDT

AFTER A FRIENDLY GROUP DINNER, VARIOUS PERFORMANCES AND VIGNETTES WERE SHOWN ON THE MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY AMPHITHEATRE STAGE INCLUDING A NEW WORK FROM JUSTIN MANYFINGERS (TOP), AN AERIAL DANCE FROM JESSICA BARRERA (MIDDLE LEFT), A CLOWN PIECE FROM DEAN BAREHAM (MIDDLE RIGHT), AND AN EXCERPT FROM LA CARAVAN DANCE THEATRE’S LATEST CREATION, FIHI MA FIHI (BOTTOM) | PHOTOS: AMY JO ESPETVEIDT

OTHER PERFORMERS INCLUDED GAGE BEAVER (TOP LEFT), ALANNA ONESPOT (TOP RIGHT), THE UNION CHOIR (MIDDLE), AMY THEISSAN (BOTTOM LEFT), AND MARIA FARAHAT (BOTTOM RIGHT)| PHOTOS: AMY JO ESPETVEIDT

OTHER PERFORMERS INCLUDED GAGE BEAVER (TOP LEFT), ALANNA ONESPOT (TOP RIGHT), THE UNION CHOIR (MIDDLE), AMY THEISSAN (BOTTOM LEFT), AND MARIA FARAHAT (BOTTOM RIGHT)| PHOTOS: AMY JO ESPETVEIDT

The day concluded with a moving performance from Eya-Hey Nakoda (top) including traditional dances (middle) and a group round dance (bottom) bringing all the participants together on stage as the sun set | Photos: Amy Jo Espetveidt

The day concluded with a moving performance from Eya-Hey Nakoda (top) including traditional dances (middle) and a group round dance (bottom) bringing all the participants together on stage as the sun set | Photos: Amy Jo Espetveidt

More photos from the inaugural Artsdance can be found on our Facebook page.

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