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Dancing all the way to Toronto

Baker Lake youth head south as part of Outside Looking In dance program
Chloe and Kassidy Tunguaq display some moves they’ve learned. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Seven youth from Baker Lake are headed south to take part in a dance camp and then show in Toronto as part of the Outside Looking In program.

“It’s about dancing for young Indigenous people,” said 13-year-old Vicky Nakoolak, succinctly.

Outside Looking In runs eight-month community-based dance programs in more than a dozen communities in the country, with Baker Lake being signed on last fall. The program culminates in two shows in front of audiences in Toronto.

Nathan Annanaut, recreation director for Baker Lake, connected with Outside Looking In when he wanted to provide something for youth other than the typical games, hockey and similar.

“I wanted the youth of Baker Lake to experience something different,” he said.

He found wellness funding to support the program, with attendance jumping from five to more than 20 youth between the first and second sessions. A professional dance choreographer, Sebastian Bash Hirtenstein, has been visiting Baker Lake regularly to teach the youth. When he’s gone, the youth have been practising with video rehearsals two or three times a week all winter.

“Usually you’d have to go to New York or Los Angeles or Vancouver for this type of thing,” said Annanaut. “I wanted something different, so I brought (Hirtenstein) up to Baker Lake instead.”

David Kalluk, 13, was enjoying showing off some of the moves he’s learned.

“At the start of every practice, we do exercises to get our body going,” explained Kalluk.

Annanaut sees something in these youth.

“When I see these young people, I see trailblazers, I see future leaders,” he said. “It changes them. I want them to become our leaders in the future, 10, 20 years from now. I want them to be councillor, mayors, MLAs. I want them to take chances. I want the kids to learn if you try something and work hard, you will get something out of it. I just want them to win.”

As the youth head south, Annanaut turns his attention to Hamlet Days games in the community, with about $32,000 in prizes to give out and a dozen games every day for nearly a week.

“After Covid everyone realized, what were we doing?” remarked Annanaut about how much people love gathering, playing and connecting.

He said people are not taking the chance to be together for granted this time.

David Kalluk strikes a pose. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
David Kalluk and Vicky Nakoolak put on a show during rehearsals. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo