Edmonton man performs traditional Cree dance on moving escalator
Donovan Shirt can often be found dancing and drumming around the city
A Cree teen caught on camera performing a ceremonial dance on a moving escalator is grabbing attention online.
In the video, 19-year-old Donovan Shirt performs a traditional grass dance as the escalator treads move beneath him.
Off camera, Justin Wright Cardinal can be heard singing.
The video was shot by Gary Moostoos, a well-known Indigenous cultural advisor in Edmonton, at the LRT platform beneath Commerce Place as the group waited for a train.
Since Moostoos posted the video to Facebook on Tuesday, it has already been viewed more than 38,000 times.
The steps Shirt performs were once danced by young Cree warriors and scouts sent ahead of the tribe to prepare the next campsite.
"What they would do is go and bless the area where the next camp was going to be … and tamp down the grass and dance where each teepee would be set," Moostoos said. "It's a blessing.
"Walking around with Donovan all over the city, he's like my little scout. He dances in front of me … like he's paving our way to wherever we're going."
No rehearsal necessary
For Shirt, who first learned the grass dance as a toddler, it was the story behind the dance that made him love it. Now, he continues to dance for the simple enjoyment.
"Being in the city, making my life here, you lose that kind of cultural sense and you just carry on with life. But I still dance whenever, because it's fun."
The escalator dance was totally spur of the moment, said Shirt, who didn't even spill his coffee.
"I didn't really know (Moostoos) was filming until the last minute — and then I was like, 'Aww, dammit. I have to keep dancing,' " he said with a laugh.
Several people have recognized Shirt from the video, asking if he's "that escalator guy," he said. Others have asked him to dance at powwows.
"I don't know — you have to be quite fit," he said. "I really like singing instead."
Shirt and Wright regularly drum and sing together, often in Moostoos' home.
When not dancing his way across the city or drumming at home, Shirt works with at-risk youth at iHuman, an inner-city agency that helps youth stay off the streets, and also regularly speaks at conferences as an ambassador for Indigenous youth.
"He's just one of these kids that's very in touch with what is happening with our people, and he advocates (on our behalf)," Moostoos said of Shirt.