Watch: Métis dancers keep tradition alive in Red Deer

Dancing the Red River Jig, Sash Dance, and others

For the Allard family of Red Deer, jigging is in their blood.

As youngsters Métis siblings Laura, Daniel and Chaundra Allard first stepped on stage at Canada Day celebrations at Bower Pond in 1992 with the Red Deer Métis Youth Cultural Dancers, a group their father Gilles Allard helped organize.

They went on to dance at over 100 festivals and events. Eventually dancing took some of them across Canada and beyond.

Today Laura, of Red Deer, and Daniel, of Calgary, still perform the traditional Red River Jig, Broom Dance, Rabbit Dance, and the more modern Orange Blossom Special as a duo with a focus on spreading the Métis culture to children through dance.

“The Red River Jig is always special to us because it’s the traditional Métis jig. What’s nice is there’s a part where you switch from regular jigging to fancy step when music changes,” said Laura Gilles, 34.

“Over the years we’ve kind of invented our own little spin on what we do for those fancy steps. Although it’s traditional we’ve also made it our own when it comes to the fancy step.”

She said the clothes are kept simple — white shirt, black skirt and pants — except for the colourful Métis sash.

“With Métis jigging it’s all about the footwork that’s why we only showcase the sash. Because the rest of your body stays straight, your arms are down, and you’re just basically working your feet, we try to keep the focus there.”

On Feb. 8 the gymnasium at Central Middle School will echo with fiddle music and the rhythmic beat from the duo’s tapping feet, along with students and teachers who will join in.

“Kids absolutely love it. You barely have to ask them to come up on stage. Seeing their excitement and being part of a community, that continues to provide us with opportunity to be able to share it and teach and pass it on and it is what keeps driving me to do it,” Laura said.

Her father Gilles Allard said Métis dancing is uniquely Canadian, a combination of Indigenous dance, coupled with French and Gaelic step dancing.

“We’ve come to be a people only because of the fur trade and isolation, with our own language and dance styles made up of that era,” Gilles said.

He said Métis fancy steps allow dancers freedom to express themselves which sets Métis dance apart from other step dancing.

“Any kid can get on the dance floor and give their best.”

Gilles, who joked it’s the equivilant of “Métis aerobics” said he doesn’t dance anymore and prefers to leave it to his children and grandchildren.

“I’m a grandpa now and I try and hold on to my rights to sit back.”

Laura disagreed.

“When my brother and I dance you can see him off on the side dancing away,” Laura said with a laugh.

His two granddaughters Norah, 6, and Presley, 4, who live with his daughter Chaundra and her husband Chris Yarborough in Atlanta, Ga., have already shared some Métis steps at their playschool.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Tens of thousands across the US march for gun control

WASHINGTON — Summoned by student survivors of the Florida school shooting, tens… Continue reading

Canyon Ski Resort season wraps up Sunday

Central Alberta skiers and snowboarders only have a couple more days to… Continue reading

Future space crunch is feared, as no new schools for Red Deer are in the budget

Only local modernization will be at Father Lacombe Catholic School in Lacombe

A million dollars for Red Deer hospital is not nearly enough, says Mayor Veer

Mayor is concerned Red Deer hospital is still not on province’s five-year capital list

No drug treatment centre, or additional shelter beds for Red Deer

But Red Deer will get more affordable housing and sustained capital funding

WATCH: Hundreds come to Red Deer Rebels Fan Fest

The Red Deer Rebels met with legions of their of fans just… Continue reading

Supreme Court rules former Stephen Harper aide guilty of influence peddling

OTTAWA — Canada’s highest court has upheld an influence peddling conviction against… Continue reading

2 killed, dozen hurt in French supermarket hostage-taking

PARIS — An armed man took hostages in a supermarket in southern… Continue reading

READER PHOTO: Red Deer students celebrate Canadian courage at Juno Beach

Teenagers from Red Deer’s Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School are learning about… Continue reading

UN report: Loss of plants, animals making a lonelier planet

WASHINGTON — New United Nations scientific reports diagnose that Earth is getting… Continue reading

Excavator frees dolphins trapped by pack ice in Newfoundland harbour

HEARTS DELIGHT, N.L. — A pod of dolphins trapped by pack ice… Continue reading

Structure fire destroys home in Mirror

A house in Mirror is completely damaged due to an overnight structure… Continue reading

Trudeau warns senators not to thwart will of Canadians on marijuana bill

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reminding senators that his government… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month