Young Indigenous dancers want to ‘get it all out’ in performance with Juno nominees

After two years, Canada’s biggest Indigenous youth dance performance is set to finally return to the stage on Thursday.

The charity Outside Looking In (OLI) has presented the showcase since 2008, but had to go on hiatus due to the pandemic.

Trish Kakegamic, one of OLI’s young dancers, is thrilled to show off months of hard work to a large audience when she and the other dancers take the stage at 7:30 p.m.

“Your soul comes out and you give so much energy and focus on dancing,” she told CBC News.

“It’s like a way to express my emotions and what I feel inside and get it all out.”

The dancers will perform with 2 nominees

The showcase will take place at Meridian Hall in Toronto where the young dancers will perform alongside DJ Shub and Snotty Nose Rez Kids, both 2022 JUNO nominees.

The event is the culmination of months of choreography sessions and rehearsals that began in September.

OLI is a national charity that works with Indigenous children across the country. Its flagship program is a high school dance credit program for students in grades 7-12.

This program concludes with the annual presentation in Toronto.

Tracee Smith is the Founder and CEO of Outside Looking In, a charity that supports Indigenous students across the country. OLI’s National Dance Program aims to help students achieve academic success through a creative outlet. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Tracee Smith, founder, CEO and dance team leader of OLI, told CBC News that the program is designed to help Indigenous youth thrive even when they face other challenges.

“There are a lot of kids who … wouldn’t have had this kind of opportunity without this program,” she said.

“If they’ve reached this stage… they’ve cleared a number of hurdles.”

The ultimate goal of the program is to promote academic success through a creative outlet, Smith said.

Seguin Meeseetawageesic, one of Outside Looking In’s student dancers, is seen here rehearsing ahead of the annual presentation at Meridan Hall in Toronto. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

And that goal seems to be paying off.

A report published by the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Essential Skills Inventory Project found that 96.2% of OLI participants graduated from high school, compared to the national average of 36% for Aboriginal high school students.

The report also documented improved health, well-being and social connections for participants.