'We needed positivity': Online jigging competitions mixing traditional dance with modern tech
'Dancing is healing and that's what everybody needs at a time like this'
Concerns about the coronavirus cancelled traditional competitions, but that isn't going to stop dancers from sharing their culture.
Online jigging competitions have started on Facebook in multiple Saskatchewan communities.
"It's amazing. It just lifts up the spirit," Elizabeth Michel said. "We needed positivity because we all missed out on our winter festival activities."
Michel is an organizer of the "From our home to yours - Talent Showcase '20" Facebook group. It started off in Pelican Narrows, Sask., but is now getting entries from around the Prairies. As of Wednesday afternoon it had almost 7,000 members.
"We had so much positive impact from this and I'm very grateful for that," she said.
One of the first competitions was jigging. Parents of little children shared their babies dancing while professionals competed in their age groups.
"If you were ever to come into my community, you'll hear jigging music because our children are so into jigging. A lot of families are," Michel said. "You'll hear jigging music, square dancing and singing. That's my happiness there."
For the contests, Michel allows a few days for people to enter and a few days for people to judge. Her granddaughter Wendy Linklater helps out with the contest fees and other details.
Another granddaughter, Ashla Michel, is a participant.
"Dancing is healing and that's what everybody needs at a time like this," Ashla Michel said. "I feel a lot of happiness and joy — it brings a lot of happiness to my life."
Ashla said her jigging and square dance competitions were cancelled.
"Due to this pandemic, it's forced us to adapt, and our Indigenous people are using social media to practise our culture," she said. "And this gives more people ... an opportunity to show their talents to practise their culture."
"As a Métis person, jigging has always been a part of my life," Rayne Favel said. "Just carrying on that tradition and passing it on to younger generations is important to me."
Favel found the group on Facebook and immediately wanted to get involved. She inspired her goddaughter Elena Deschambeault to show off her jigging where the Saskatchewan River and Old Channel meet near Cumberland House, their hometown.
"Jigging is a way to express who I am as a young Indigenous woman and it empowers me," Deschambeault said. "And it's important to share with others."
Deschambeault said the competition takes their minds off what's going on in the world and shows something positive.
Smaller groups created for individual communities
Phylicia Charles took inspiration from the Pelican Narrows group and started one for her community of Amachewespimawin First Nation.
She wanted a group for her community to showcase their local talent. It currently has about 1,100 members. The group started with their own jigging competition and has $600 from donations and entrance fees that will be used to pay winning contestants.
Charles said it's awesome using modern technology for something traditional like a jigging competition.
"Most people have devices nowadays to connect with each other," she said. "So I think it's pretty cool."