By Kelly Anne Smith
NORTH BAY—Waasejigan Tails had a full house in its premiere performance at Big Medicine Studio on Nipissing First Nation.
The audience was hushed at times during the Aanmitaagzi Summer Arts Program performance while one scene had everyone laughing—hard. There were giggle tears about lady power during pow-wow season.
The memorable Friday evening is part of the Serpent People Project with performers having just received a four-week intensive instruction in dance, theatre, visual arts, and story-telling under the direction of Penny Couchie. Sid Bobb took the stage with the ten other performers.
Couchie is an award winning choreographer who entices the group to dance fluidly and move confidently as their own spirits.
The dance concepts and movements ease the offering of raw emotions and truths from people’s history.
Waasejigan Tails is about the tales of Nipissing. The stories of the each youth meld challenges such as finding true identity or shunning a lifestyle of substance abuse.
Young lives are shown as complicated and sometimes in chaos. The youth overcome by making connections with friends, family, and their culture. Singing and dancing together builds a community. Waasejigan Tails tells that ultimately, you can be whatever you want to be.
Darren Nakogee hit thrilling high notes and his boisterous acting had young children looking for their mom’s glances of approval.
Introducing the performance, Sid Bobb acknowledged the many creative people in the room and gave appreciation to Canada Council for the Arts and Service Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy.
After the show, first time participant Kianna Hookimaw was beaming. Asked about the experience, she said that Sid Bobb and Penny Couchie are wonderful people. “They are the best teachers ever. It was good and really fun. I’ve been dancing for three years. Here, I’ve learned acting and singing. I want to come back.”
Performer Tyler Eagle is from Waswanipi, Quebec. Eagle has attended in the past and was invited back for the 2016 Summer Arts Program. “We learn singing, dancing, acting—everything really.”
The night of the performance was special for Eagle’s twentieth birthday. “That last part, I did not expect. I didn’t expect a real cake.” The directors brought out the cake to him after a few curtain calls.
Eagle says his future will always include singing and dancing pow-wow style, but he wants to get serious about becoming a native language teacher. Eagle credits all of the teachers he has had with showing him different styles of teaching.
17-year-old member of Nipissing First Nation, Cole Stevens, is a stage veteran of the Summer Arts Program. “I’ve been doing this for four years now. I do love it, definitely.”
“Penny, Sid, and Clayton Windatt are my mentors. They have taught me mostly everything I know. I aspire to keep writing, keep singing, and keep dancing, all of that,” added Stevens.
“The program really taught me that anyone can dance and anyone can do the arts. I aspire to be a know-it-all of the arts. I dream to have knowledge of the arts, maybe not all the arts, but the majority of the arts. I then will teach and share my knowledge with other people,” continued Stevens.
Darien Benjamins, Binaeshee-Quae Couchie-Nabigons, Jacob Dayfox, Shanel Lazarus, and Marjorie Nashkawa were the other performers.