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Iqaluit students dance their way through school

A dance program is encouraging some Iqaluit students to achieve academic and social success. This is the second year Inuksuk High School has provided students an opportunity to join the Outside Looking In (OLI) dance program.

OLI, founded in 2007, has been made available across Canada with the aim of bringing Indigenous communities together through dance. On May 6, dance students from 12 different communities nationwide will have an opportunity to travel and perform a dance routine in Toronto.

Jaydin Nungaq, left with Loulah Omar, Misa Aliyak and Mila Kipanik are some of the dance students enrolled in the Outside Looking In program at Inuksuk High School. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo

Besides the desire to dance, each student must maintain a set academic standard and attendance through the entire school year to remain in the program. Successful dancers will be rewarded with both a high school credit in addition to a trip down

Students Misa Aliyak and Mila Kipanik have both enrolled in the OLI program for the second time.

Aliyak, 15, said the program has changed him personally. He is generally more confident when interacting with new people.

"I don't get afraid of talking to new people now," explained Aliyak.

The opportunity to dance and make new friendships has motivated him to remain academically focused as well.

Like Aliyak, Kipanik admitted there are many benefits to joining the dance group. For her, dancing has enhanced to her emotional and physical well-being.

"I've been happier," said Kipanik.

"I was happy to dance and I thought it would be a new opportunity for me to meet new people. And I get to travel," she said.

Traveling to Toronto is a motivating factor for not only Aliyak and Kipanik, but also grade 11 student, Jaydin Nungaq.

Last year, Nungaq visited Toronto for the first time ever because of the dance program.
"I got to travel and go to a new place I've never been before and the experience was amazing. Hands down," Nungaq said with a smile.

Nungaq finds the opportunity to meet and connect with other Indigenous youth in Toronto rewarding.

"I get to talk to so many Indigenous youth that are my age," he said, adding it is a great opportunity to learn about different Indigenous communities.

He believes the OLI program should be available to more Northern communities since "it would help the students in general with their mental health and their physical health."

Presently, Iqaluit is the only community in Nunavut participating in the OLI program.

"I've become more inspired than ever to go to school every day," said Nungaq, adding the program has boosted his confidence and encouraged him to work harder at school.

Despite the OLI being geared mainly towards the Indigenous community, Inuksuk High School has made the program available to students from all ethnicities.

Grade 9 student Loulah Omar, from Zimbabwe, said it is a joy to be a part of the program.
"It's fun because sometimes dance can let the true you come out. It gives you energy when you feel like it or when you need it sometimes," she said.

She encourages others to join the fun by dancing and sharing new experiences together.
Teacher Lael Kronick, who holds three dance classes weekly, said each student's unique background is valuable and makes the performance richer.

"It is not about all being the same. It is about being together and having fun," said Kronick.

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