Diverse cultural traditions showcased in 10th anniversary of Coastal First Nations Dance Festival

Marking 50 years of Indigenous dance revitalization, Dancers of Damelahamid and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC announce the 10th anniversary Coastal First Nations Dance Festival. A celebration of Indigenous stories, song and dance from Canada and abroad, this season’s festival will feature a Pacific Islander artist from Hawai’i, the anticipated return of Cree hoop dancing, and the world-premiere of Dancers of Damelahamid’s newest work, Interweavings from February 28 to March 5.

“We proudly mark 10 years of strengthening and preserving Indigenous culture and heritage with our largest and most diversified program to date,” says Festival Executive & Artistic Director Margaret Grenier. “This anniversary truly recognizes 50 years of Indigenous dance revitalization made possible through the work of Dancers of Damelahamid. We strive to carry this legacy forward by continuing to play a vital role in the local arts community, building increasing awareness around First Nations’ rich cultural history.”

The roots of the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival can be traced to Ken and Margaret Harris, the founders of the Dancers of Damelahamid. In 1967, the Harris’ began the Haw yah Hawni naw Festival in Prince Rupert to educate those wishing to regain their ancestral dance and art traditions following the 1951 lift of the Potlatch Ban. In 2008, Margaret Grenier and the Dancers of Damelahamid worked with the Harris’ to revive the festival in Vancouver and engage a new generation of artists.

The 10th annual festival welcomes artists from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, The Maritimes, Yukon, Alaska, Hawai’i and New Zealand. New and not-to-be-missed this year: a performance by Peter Espiritu, Founder and Artistic Director of Hawai‘i’s critically acclaimed contemporary dance company Tau Dance Theater; Sto:lo youth dance troupe, the Semoya Dancers from Chilliwack; Modern Métis jigging and square dance works from Vancouver’s own Compaigni V’ni Dansi, and emerging Métis artist Marcus Meratsy; as well as the West Coast premiere of Eastern Owl, an all-female, seven-member drum group from St. John’s, NL. Known for their folk-infused, inspirational songs, Easter Owl recently launched their first album, Not Quite Like You.

Other highlights include: traditional performance by Git Hayetsk and Git Hoan, Alaskan groups with a long-standing connection to Dancers of Damelahamid; a solo work merging contemporary dance and traditional Maori singing by New Zealand artist Charles Koroneho, Youth Workshop facilitator and long-time Dancers of Damelahamid collaborator; Haida troupe Rainbow Creek, led by renowned artist Robert Davidson; and the 50-member, multigenerational Coast Salish Tsatsu Stalquayu (Coastal Wolf Pack).  Dancers of Damelahamid will also premiere their new work Interweavings. Evoking stirring imagery of canoes banding together and whales joining voices, Interweavings is a tribute to the festival’s legacy of keeping generations tied and their traditions alive.