Photo by Jean-Francois Latour
In this milestone year of  Canada’s history, Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) is excited to mark a first—the first year in which Sharing Dance is engaging teachers and students through dance in Nunavut. NBS is excited to be working with several different groups to bring Sharing Dance to their communities.
In Arctic Bay, a small High Arctic community of 868 people, located at the northwest corner of Baffin Island, teacher Jean-Francois Latour has been leading the Sharing Dance movement because he thinks the program offers a unique opportunity to introduce a new style of dance to his students.
“When we learned about the opportunity provided by NBS’ Sharing Dance program for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we decided to get involved and see what kind of participation we could have in the project,” says the teacher at Inuujaq School, a K-12 school with approximately 225 students.
“You have to understand that nothing like this has ever been done in Arctic Bay,” says Latour. “We are a fairly traditional Inuit community where everybody communicates in Inuktitut. We don't hear much English on our playground or around town! The style of dancing and singing is very different up here, so this music piece is totally a new experience for the participants (grades 5-9).” The students learn English as a second language but primarily communicate in Inuktitut.
Latour was also inspired by the national scope of the project, and has worked with several of his colleagues to organize rehearsals for students in Grades 5-9. They’re now gearing up for a performance on June 2nd.
“We were very pleased to hear the throat singing of Tiffany Ayalik included on the track,” says Latour, referencing the specially remixed piece of Canadian music used for this year’s choreography, which features throat singer Tiffany Ayalik who was born in the Northwest Territories and is of Inuit ancestry. “We patiently developed the interest and we are doing our best to sustain the interest of learning the dance routine even if the end of the school year is looming on us (June 7). We intend to perform a portion of the routine, right on the sea ice on June 2. Who knows, we might even wear some traditional clothing!”
In another part of Nunavut, a young dancer named Shelton Nipisar has been working with NBS artistic staff member Ashleigh Powell to learn the choreography via real-time video-conferencing technology. In turn, Shelton—who lives in Arviat, an Inuit hamlet located on the western shore of Hudson Bay in the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut—plans to teach the choreography to other kids and youth in the community.
In partnership with TakingITGlobal, Ashleigh has been teaching the choreography to Shelton using a two-way TelePresence video technology. Both Ashleigh and Shelton have had an amazing experience so far.
On July 1st, the Iqaluit Dance Academy is planning to perform the choreography as part of their city’s Canada Day celebrations.