The youth team from Rankin Inlet took an emotional roller-coaster ride to the 2019 George Hapanak Memorial square-dancing championship in Arviat from Nov. 8 to 11.
The Rankin team arrived in Arviat to find out they were the only youth group signed-up for the competition.
At first they were told they’d be named youth champions without competing, but, in their minds, they had worked too hard for this trip to win anything that way.
They just wanted to dance.
Rankin female lead Shanti Dias said the committee members eventually allowed the Rankin youth to compete in the adult category, but only if they forfeited the youth championship money.
She said they were quite happy to do that because they went to Arviat to dance and that’s exactly what they did.
“I guess I’d been building to that point since I started dancing with a couple of people who asked me when I was in middle school (Simon Alaittuq School) in Rankin a couple of years ago.” said Dias.
“I can’t say there was any one thing that drew me in, but square dancing is fun and it lets us feel a bit better about ourselves, so I decided to stick with it.”
Dias said the Rankin dancers felt good at first, but they started to become more-than-a-little nervous as they watched other teams take to the floor.
She said they really thought other teams were dancing better, so they decided not to worry about winning and just have a good time dancing.
“It was so funny when they announced the winners because when we didn’t hear our names called for second or third, we thought we didn’t win anything and we were a little down.
“Then, when they called our group for first place, we were really surprised and couldn’t believe it. We were all so happy.”
Dias said her mom, Shawna, made the Rankin outfits out of material donated by Eskimo Point Lumber Supply.
She said in her opinion, having nice outfits really does help when it comes down to the final judging.
“Our group has been practicing and dancing at open dances in Rankin for about the past 18 months, and I just adore my mom’s sewing, so it felt really good to be dancing in outfits she made for us.
“Mom also designed one of our outfits, but the girls in our group actually designed the outfits we wore during the final dance.”
Shawna said when she saw how hard her daughter was working to make this trip, she decided to get involved too.
She said Shanti’s teammate and cousin, Kailee Karlik, also stepped-up to help and that made things even more memorable.
“Shanti would come home and talk about her group all the time, so I was pretty much involved right from the start because she was talking about it so much,” said Shawna.
“I always give it my best when I get involved with something and, if someone had asked me, I would have done all that for this group even if my daughter wasn’t involved.
“I usually try to help any group needing a donation or a little extra help through my own small business, Dias Design’s.
“I’m willing to put my time in to help any group that asks it of me.”
Shawna said she was impressed by how the Rankin girls created their own design, and then helped select the right colours and cut the material.
She said she also appreciated Karlik’s help sewing it together.
“Avaala Sabourin’s mom helped make the outfits the guys wore, so it was a real team effort all around,” said Shawna.
“I wasn’t able to go to Arviat but people were doing live feeds on Facebook, so we sat at home and watched as it happened.
“We were so happy the organizers took into consideration my husband (Tony) messaging them on how hard the girls worked to raise the money for this trip.
“And I was also grateful when the committee allowed them to join the adult division because I love seeing teenagers involved with traditional activities.”
Karlik said she loves everything about dancing with the group, especially the excitement of a competition and being on the floor dancing with multiple people.
She said she found square dancing complicated when she first started, but it pretty much comes naturally now.
“I’ve been square dancing for about two years now and this was the second championship we’ve won during that time,” said Karlik.
“They held a competition during the Christmas Games here in Rankin this past year, which we won even though we had to pick-up a couple of people because two dancers from our regular group couldn’t make it.
“Square dancing is a great thing to be involved with because a lot of people like to watch you, and it feels good when you’re doing something traditional that highlights your culture.
“And it’s so much fun when you get the audience just as excited as you are and everyone is yelling out at the same time.”