By Rick Garrick
Fort William’s Bess Legarde shared her old style fancy dancing during an early December Pow-Wow exhibition tour to the Great Wall and other locations in China.
“We did a performance at the Great Wall,” says Legarde, the Fort William administrative officer who has danced in Pow-Wows since she was a child. “We did a performance at the Bird’s Nest, which is the Olympic Stadium. We actually did round dances with the people there. Same with at the school, the kids would do round dances with us. It was really awesome.”
Legarde usually dances the jingle dress style but because the group already had another jingle dress dancer, she switched to old style fancy dancing.
“I just wanted to show them different varieties of dance that we have,” Legarde says.
Legarde says old style fancy dancers usually hold their arms more to the side and do basic footwork without full spins while fancy shawl dancers spin around and wave their shawl through the air to imitate a butterfly.
“(The audiences) were pretty intrigued by the fancy shawl and they were really drawn to the men’s traditional, because of the feathers,” Legarde says. “A lot of people wanted to take pictures with Doug Turner and Allen Wemigwans as they had feathers.”
Legarde and the group of six other dancers and one singer performed at the Great Wall and the Bird’s Nest in Beijing on the fourth day of the tour. They also toured the Summer Palace, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square while in Beijing.
“It was an amazing experience and very eye-opening,” Legarde says. “Just being able to Pow-Wow dance on those sites, I never thought I would ever do it.”
The group began the tour in Jiaozuo with a performance at the birthplace of Tai Chi on the first day, a performance and presentation for the mayor on the second day and a performance at a school on the third day.
“It was like such a rush, it was very welcoming, it was very fulfilling,” Legarde says. “They treated us very well. Honestly, I felt like a celebrity. They were taking my picture, asking for my signature, asking for my e-mail. Their law enforcement were saluting us and we were really respected there. It felt really good.”
Legarde says the young children in China were advanced in their education.
“There were children of all ages, as young as four, doing Tai Chi (and) doing dance demonstrations, singing, playing instruments,” Legarde says. “They were just so advanced in their education that it was really amazing.”
Legarde encourages other youth to travel overseas.
“As much as things were different there, I really enjoyed the experience,” Legarde says. “Travel the world; see the world.”
The group travelled with Ann Magiskan, Aboriginal liaison with the City of Thunder Bay, and Peng You, a Thunder Bay resident originally from China who initiated the idea for the exhibition tour.