Keenan Simik Komaksiutiksak isn’t afraid of the limelight.

If anything, the Rankin Inlet-born professional dancer and circus artist, who now lives in Montreal, basks in it.

“I personally do not get nervous,” said Komaksiutiksak after modelling a series of designs at the Indigenous Fashion Arts show in Toronto last month. “I would say it’s more excitement.”

Komaksiutiksak was born in Rankin Inlet but moved to Ottawa at the age of three. The two-spirited performer has been dancing since age six and began taking it seriously in his teens.

“I’ve been performing on stages now for almost 20 years,” said Komaksiutiksak, adding that he has long since gotten over any stage fright. “It was so magical to see everyone in their hair and make-up and their looks. I don’t think there was much time to really feel nervous – everyone was just excited to show how amazing we all looked.”

After winning a summer solstice festival in Ottawa in 2015, Komaksiutiksak was able to use the proceeds to fund more competitive classes and dive deeper into dance and circus arts. After graduating high school, he began working as a professional circus artist on cruise ships and travelled the world performing.

Since returning to Canada, Komaksiutiksak has built a solid network and relationships with other Indigenous dancers, whom he’s proud to call his mentors. He works full-time in Tio’Tia:ke (Montreal) as a freelance dancer and circus artist now.

The Indigenous Fashion Arts (IFA) runway shows stretched over four days and Komaksiutiksak modelled a variety of looks by designers in the Indigenous world.

“I really met such amazing and inspiring Indigenous artists, which has given me so much motivation and inspiration to keep building these relations,” he said.

“I honestly feel like I made a genuine connection with everyone I met at IFA and I am very grateful for all of the memories I had made there. I’m very much looking forward to next year’s festival and I’m hoping to see more Inuit apply for the upcoming years.”

Komaksiutiksak modelled both masculine and feminine looks at the show.

“It was really fun to live my full androgynous fantasy,” he said. “I identify as a two-spirit Inuk, so being able to touch into my feminine and masculine side collectively throughout all the shows was a full circle moment for me and my journey of embracing my queerness.”

And if the funding can come together at some point, Komaksiutiksak dreams of returning to Rankin Inlet to teach youth dance classes.

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