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Resilient Indigenous Spirit Celebrated In 14th Annual Coastal Dance Festival

Program features world premiere from Dancers of Damelahamid and offers essential platform for cultural sharing with festival's most beloved performers.

Resilient Indigenous Spirit Celebrated In 14th Annual Coastal Dance Festival

Dancers of Damelahamid invites audiences to participate in a celebration of Indigenous arts as part of the newly envisioned, virtual presentation of the 14th annual Coastal Dance Festival, from March 12-18, 2021.

The free, online festival will feature the world premiere of a new short dance work in honour of the late Elder Margaret Harris by Dancers of Damelahamid filmed at the Anvil Centre, as well as performances and cultural sharing by many of the festival's long-standing artists, including the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, Git Hayetsk Dancers, Git Hoan Dancers, Spakwus Slolem, 'Yisya̱'winux̱w Dancers, and David Robert Boxley.

"As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times due to COVID-19, it's essential that we also celebrate the resilience and strength of our Indigenous communities," says Margaret Grenier, Festival Executive & Artistic Director. "While the festival will be presented in a very different way than in past years, we are committed to providing a vital platform for the protection and preservation of Indigenous dance and protocols. Indigenous identity and cultural wellbeing are lived practices and it's essential for Indigenous people to continuously practice and share their songs and dances in order to maintain them, for the wellbeing of our communities."

As part of the 2021 online festival, Dancers of Damelahamid will share a preview of a newly choreographed short dance work in honour of the late Elder Margaret Harris-who recently passed on July 15, 2020, at the age of 89-and the profound impact she had on the revitalization of Indigenous song and dance along the Northwest Coast. Margaret Harris and her husband Chief Harris-who passed away in 2010-founded Dancers of Damelahamid in 1967 and have been recognized nationally and internationally for the influence they had in Indigenous performing arts. Throughout their immense careers they were honoured with the Centennial Medal from Queen Elizabeth in 1967, the Golden Jubilee Medal from British Columbia's Lieutenant Governor in 2003 and were inducted into the National Dance Collection Danse (DCD) Hall of Fame in 2019.

"Elder Margaret Harris worked hard to ensure that the cultural practices and knowledge of our Indigenous people were not lost," adds Grenier, daughter of the late Elder Harris and Chief Harris. "She had a transformative impact on families, communities, and culture. Through her unwavering commitment and passion, she brought life back into artistic practices along the Northwest Coast, having dedicated her life to sharing her knowledge with others in order to preserve and uphold their own ancestral songs and dances."

2021 Coastal Dance Festival program highlights include:

  • Whitehorse's award-winning Inland Tlingit Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, whose dance group focuses on reclaiming their languages and traditional values through their inherent art form of singing, drumming, dancing, and storytelling.
  • A lively performance featuring mask dances from the Git Hayetsk Dancers, based in Kitsumkalum, B.C. and led by Mike and Mique'l Dangeli.
  • Washington-based Git Hoan Dancers, led by Tsimshian artist and dance leader David Boxley and recognized internationally for their use of masks and high energy performance, who will share a Tsimshian-style song and dance featuring 10-15 performers.
  • Squamish-based dance company Spakwus Slolem, presenting Squamish culture, songs, and dances for the last 20 years, who will perform a traditional welcome ceremony.
  • Alert Bay's 'Yisya̱'winux̱w Dancers, whose six dancers and four singers will perform four dances, including a traditional welcome dance and the Hamatsa "Cannibal Dance"-the highest-ranking and most sacred of the T?"seḵa "Winter Ceremonies" of the Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw.
  • Metlakatla, Alaska's David Robert Boxley, who will tell ancient stories, once told by the Tsimshian people over thousands of years, in both Sm'algyax and English.
  • Youth artists Casey James and Demetrius Paul.

All 2021 Coastal Dance Festival performances will be available for viewing for free on Vimeo, from March 12 at 9am PST to March 18 at 9pm PST. In lieu of ticket prices, donations to Dancers of Damelahamid are welcome via Canada Helps. Donations will be in support of the dance company's educational outreach, including workshops, demonstrations, and artist talks with school and youth groups.

To view all festival performances and to donate, visit damelahamid.ca.


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