I’m not even going to attempt to hide the fact that this is a blatant plug for our Pepsi Refresh Project Grant application.
For those few who I haven’t actually emailed, stalked, or tweeted, the latest ACE Communities news is that we are one of the ideas vying for $100,000 of Pepsi’s cash. Our goal: organizing a music and dance tour in Albertan Aboriginal communities. This latest grant race is notable as it is you, the voting public, who will ultimately decide whose project wins.
So hey! If you want to vote and/or spread the word here is the link: http://ab.yace.ca/artstour. See… what did I say…a blatant plug.
I was thinking a little bit today, as I continued to roll out my social media campaign, about what the point of all of this really was. Like…why the push for an arts tour for our aboriginal communities instead of for someone else? As a practitioner who has spent many years working in the arts trenches, I know that resources are thin on the ground for everyone.
As I sat and really considered this, an image of Stan popped into my head.
And who’s Stan, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Stan just happens to be one of the most popular male Aboriginal dancers on the southern pow wow circuit. I first saw Stan dance at the Grey Eagle Casino as part the Aboriginal Day celebrations at the Tsuu T’ina Nation. He was representing the Men’s Fancy Dance category and he, I’m not going to lie, completely blew me away.
Stan dancing was a hurricane of colour, virtuoso, and male power. I had never truly seen anything like it and, if I had had my way, I could have watched Stan dance for hours. As I left the casino that afternoon after the performance, I couldn’t help but feel both inspired and affirmed in my belief about the power of dance.
One of the most interesting things I discovered about Stan was that he wasn’t technically a professional dancer. In fact, it turned out he was a cook at the Grey Eagle. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that cooks can’t dance but I would be hard pressed to find many civilians (as in us non-artsy fartsies) dance with the same brilliance and passion as Stan.
So what was it that had a cook in an Aboriginal community possible out dance almost everyone in my Euro-centric world? The answer: a foundational connection to the heritage and artistic heartbeat on one’s own culture.
Unfortunately, a huge epidemic is running rampant in many of our Aboriginal communities. Substance abuse, high rates of diabetes, poverty, and gang crime in combination with an increasingly alarming and growing disconnect to their heritage (which many blame on the residential school syndrome) have lead to the despondency in many communities. This despondency is killing the soul of many Aboriginal communities, fracturing individuals and even nations.
Our answer: the ACE music and dance tour. While I would never be so arrogant as to believe that one little arts tour in seven communities will solve any of the above issues, I do sincerely believe that it could be a stopgap, musical healing, or at least a temporary balm for the soul.
And if you don’t believe in the healing power of the arts, then I dare you to go find Stan from the Tsuu T’ina Nation and watch him dance.
To vote daily (until August 31st) for the ACE Communities Pepsi Refresh Project go to: http://ab.yace.ca/artstour