When the curtain lifted, so did the stomach butterflies in three Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School students as they performed in front of 3,000 people at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
“I was so nervous,” admits Gracianah Gallicano, a Grade 8 student at Outma, who performed on May 23.
“I just started taking big, deep breaths and we all just were encouraging each other and hyping each other up.”
Gallicano, along with Delaney Pierre and Seanna Edward, were among 120 students, in grades 7 to 12, chosen from Indigenous communities across the country to participate in the 12th annual Indigenous Youth Dance Show — presented by Outside Looking In, a national-based organization that offers high school accredited dance program.
Using dance as a catalyst, the charitable organization pairs some of Canada’s hippest choreographers with participating schools in which the students are inspired to pursue education, engage in self-expression and celebrate empowerment.
After being assessed on academic progress, attendance, dance performance and behaviour, the trio were chosen to the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation camp in St. George, Ont. two weeks in advance of the Indigenous Youth Dance Show, where they engaged in daily rehearsals, camp activities and team building exercises to prepare for their performances. The Outma students were the only ones from B.C. chosen to participate.
Pierre said she also was very nervous when it came time to show off their dance skills, despite spending four hours a month with her dance instructor Jordan Fassina (from Vancouver).
The trio have also spent several hours a week, since November 2018, practicing the routines on their own leading up to the performance.
“When the curtain went up, the lights were shining in my eyes so I couldn’t see too much, but oh yeah there was definitely around 3,000 in the audience. I could kind of see the first three rows, and in the first row I just saw people cheering us and smiling. It makes you feel really good,” said Pierre.
For Edward, it was more than just a dance experience.
“It was cool meeting new people from different communities and getting to know what it feels like to work with different dancers on your level and higher,” she said.
“It was so overwhelming but the crowd was there cheering us on when it came to performing. The hardest part was leaving on the lsat day because we got to know so many kids. There was a lot of emotions.”
After the experience, all three of the girls said they are interested in pursuing entering dance classes.
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