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i u a pi pu pa ti tu ta ki ku ka gi gu ga mi mu ma ni nu na si su sa li lu la ji ju ja vi vu va ri ru ra qi qu qa ngi ngu nga lhi lhu lha

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Iqaluit drummers ready to wow crowds at Arctic Winter Games

Nunatsiaq | January 27, 2023

Categories: news

Iqaluit drummers ready to wow crowds at Arctic Winter Games

Inuksuk Drum Dancers to represent Team Nunavut, perform at Cultural Gala

The Inuksuk Drum Dancers from Iqaluit will be a part of Team Nunavut at the Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta., from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4. The group will perform multiple shows throughout the week, showcasing Inuit drumming and throat singing. From left: (top row) Mia Maurice, Taiga Las, Ella Estey, (bottom row) Mary Piercey-Lewis, Kristy Kanayuk, Aura Kwon, Mackenzie O’Dell. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/courtesy of Mary Piercey-Lewis)

By Madalyn Howitt

When the best amateur athletes from Nunavut and Nunavik gather next week for the Arctic Winter Games, it will be one of the biggest showcases of sports talent in the Arctic regions.

It will also shine a spotlight on some of the Arctic’s best young musical performers.

Representing Team Nunavut at this year’s Games, being held in Wood Buffalo, Alta., are the Inuksuk Drum Dancers from Iqaluit, a group of local high school students who perform Inuit throat singing, drumming and traditional dances.

Members Ella Estey, Mackenzie O’Dell, Mia Maurice, Kristy Kanayuk, Aura Kwon, Taiga Las and their teacher, Mary Piercey-Lewis, are getting ready for a packed performance schedule at the Games, which open Sunday and run until Feb. 4.

The group will perform multiple shows throughout the weeklong competition. It culminates with a 20-minute performance that they’ll debut at the Cultural Gala event, where performers from the participating Arctic regions will showcase singing, dancing and music.

In addition to Nunavut, those regions will include Nunavik, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Greenland, Alaska, northern Alberta, Finland and Norway.

Getting a chance to see all the cultural contingents perform together on stage is what O’Dell is most looking forward to.

“I’m most excited to show them what we do and also see what they do. I think it’s gonna be a really cool experience,” she said.

Kanayuk agrees.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the other nations and countries come together and do what they do best,” she said.

The Inuksuk Drum Dancers’ original performance will include drum dancing, a throat-singing demonstration and a blend of traditional and contemporary songs the group is having fun practising ahead of their trip.

Inuksuk Drum Dancers are seen here performing at a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Event in Ottawa in 2022. (File photo by Jeff Pelletier)

They are also planning to hold music workshops throughout the week and work on a special performance with the other cultural contingents.

“That’s really exciting, because that’s going to be new and it will feature people from all across the circumpolar North,” Piercey-Lewis said.

In addition to performances at the Games, the Inuksuk Drum Dancers will also give pop-up performances around the Wood Buffalo region, at community centres, public spaces and “anywhere they ship us to,” laughed Piercey-Lewis.

“I think we’ll be able to connect with the audiences a little bit more than we normally would … with more social interaction, with food and conversations as well as music.”

Estey said she’s most excited about the pop-up shows, while Maurice said she’s looking forward to all of the practices the groups will be having.

“It’s a really nice experience all together, not just performing on stage but being together as a group,” Maurice said.

“We’re all getting pumped up and ready to perform,” added O’Dell.

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