“I was taught that the hoop dance originated with the Navajo people. It was a healing dance, part of a ceremony that is still around today,” says Jessica McMann, Indigenous Dance instructor at MRU Conservatory. “Later on, and more recently as well, there are hoop dance origins in Anishnaabe (the story of Pukwis) and Lakota traditions as well. The same significance of healing, storytelling and thankfulness are part of these stories as well.”
“This course is open to everyone who would like to learn more about Powwow Dance and Hoop Dance,” she says.
The course is truly for everyone.
“In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, non-indigenous people are welcome to attend,” says McMann, “Indigenous participants are also welcome to attend, and to reconnect with their culture in a new way.”
McMann started hoop dancing fifteen years ago. She credits her pursuit to great instruction,“I had a really awesome teacher that pushed me to work really hard, and it was an additional creative outlet to music (she also earned a music degree from UCalgary).” Undoubtedly, her instruction mirrors that inspiration in her students.
The perks of being trained in both forms of performance are many, “I am so lucky that this dance has allowed me to travel around the world, and perform in many different contexts,” she circles back, “The healing and storytelling aspects are what I hope to bring to people when I teach and perform.”
“The course is built around 5 hoops, each week, each participant learns physical skills, different formations, and also learn local indigenous history as well as from my own people.” In addition, for those looking to bolster their physical fitness regime, it’s apparently quite the workout.
Musically, McMann chooses the playlist, “I use indigenous music only, for the fitness and dance aspects, as well as powwow music. Participants will also be experiencing the talented and diverse music that Indigenous people are creating today.”
In offering this course, McMann hopes to build awareness between cultures and bring people of all backgrounds together.
“Hoop dance is unique in the way that it honours the circle of life, and can hold many teachings from different Indigenous peoples. Healing the relationship between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people is very important.”
This is one initiative that is well-aligned with MRU’s campus-wide Indiginization process.
“With a strong history of upholding Classical arts, offering Indigenous music and dance only makes the capability of the Conservatory’s legacy to be stronger.” McMann exclaims. “There is room for growth, and the contributions of Indigenous fine arts are invaluable to this process.”
This is just one of many new initiatives that the MRU Conservatory is offering to broaden the training offered to a more multi-cultural Canadian community. Dr. Brad Mahon, the new Director of the Conservatory agrees, “The desire is to foster courses like Indigenous Dance, Taiko Drumming and Chinese Classical Music. Our program offerings should be a reflection of the cultural and artistic diversity in our community.”
With an expanding list of diverse artistic pursuits, the Conservatory promises to be as invaluable an arts education centre in it’s second century of operation.
McMann is a proud addition,“I am very happy to see the Conservatory being the first institution in Calgary to follow this important and significant national movement.”
– by JLove