Inuit youth stars perform with Aglukark

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MARILYN TAGOONA
Special to Nunatsiaq News

OTTAWA – Susan Aglukark shared the stage with 18 Inuit dancers from across Nunavut at the opening of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards show in Calgary last Friday.

The show was broadcast last night on CBC television.

The show began by displaying a beautifully arranged pyramid with many steps, centered with a waterfall, which held the dancers, Inuit drum dancers, and Susan Aglukark as she broke into her well-known songs, Hina Na Ho and O’ Siem.

“I have never seen anything like this before! This show had the most beautiful set costumes anyone could ever imagine. What a sight and what talent!” some observers said after the show.

The combination of a magnificent set, fantastic dancers, and Susan’s enchanting voice kept the audience breathless. Colombian-born choreographer Alejandro Ronceria had the dancers perform some movements as Inuit sculptures.

All of the dancers in the opening and closing numbers are Inuit, and travelled from the Northwest Territories and Ontario.

Smooth show

For many of them, this was their first time taking part in such a big production, and yet their performance went off without a hitch.

For weeks, they rehearsed, and at times they found it to be very hard work, but as soon as they stepped onto the stage for dress rehearsal, the excitement and enjoyment grew intensely.

“This is such a great experience and hopefully this kind of show will give Canada more awareness of the Inuit culture,” said one of the dancers.

Susan Aglukark had her newborn baby with her between sets, and came in to visit with the dancers frequently.

There was much support and morale boosting amongst all of them; friendly and joking conversation helped ease the tension.

At the rehearsals and in the dressing room frenzy, everyone clicked really well and worked like a professional team, even down to the last minute before show time.

The dancers who took part are Bill Akavak, Nala Alainga, Johnny Alogut, Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy, Ian Evaloardjuk Monteith, Lucie Idlout, Silvia Ipirautaq Cloutier, Elaine Kanayuk, Karin Kettler, Tuutalik Noah, Bernie Nowdlak, Phanuelie Pallung, Eva Sowdluapik, Jeff Tabvahtah, Kendra Tagoona, Juanita Taylor, David Serkoak and Jackie Shouldice.

Empowering awards

The host for the evening was Tom Jackson, a recipient of an award last year, and star of the hit CBC television series North of 60.”

John Kim Bell, the executive producer of the show and the President of the Canadian Native Arts Foundation, had this to say about the awards:

“The NAAA are very empowering for all aboriginal people. They also serve to build a bridge between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal worlds by showcasing the best of who we are in aboriginal Canada.”

Presenting the awards were prominent people such as Romeo Leblanc, Governor-General of Canada, Ron Irwin, Ministry of Indian Affairs & Northern Development, Elijah Harper, Member of Parliament, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Secretary of State, Mary May Simon, Canada’s Circumpolar Ambassador, and Mary Sillett, President of Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, just to mention a few.

There were 14 award recipients for this year’s event:

Kiawak Ashoona, Cape Dorset Inuit artist;
George Berthe, Northern Quebec’s “Special Youth Award” recipient;
Gil Cardinal, film and television director and producer;
Chester Cunningham, aboriginal justice reform worker;
Chief Billy Diamond, Northern Quebec Cree business leader;
Dr. Olive Dickason, historian and writer, “Lifetime Achievement” award recipient;
Graham Greene, famed actor (Dances with Wolves);
Rita Joe, Nova Scotia’s award winning poet;
Kakfwi, NWT cabinet minister;
Harry S. LaForme, Ontario Court of Justice;
Rev. Stanley John McKay, first aboriginal person to become Moderator of the United Church of Canada;
Dr. Martin Gale McLoughlin, kidney transplant specialist;
Senator Charlie Watt, Northern Quebec’s aboriginal constitutional rights advocate;
Darren Zack, Pan-Am games gold medal winner and world championship winning pitcher

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