An Alexander hoop dancer is off to South Korea this February to represent Alberta as part of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Alexander First Nation member Dallas Arcand Jr. is one of a small group of Alberta artists that have been picked to perform at the Cultural Olympiad Art Performance Festival in Gangneung, South Korea, which is one of the two host sites for the 2018 Winter Olympics. (The game’s events are happening in the city of Gangneung and the nearby county of Pyeongchang, both of which are in the province of Gangwon.)
The festival is being organized by the Bureau of Olympic Operation in Gangwon, which is a sister province to Alberta, said Kevin Richtscheid, a senior international relations officer with Alberta Economic Development assisting the bureau. The festival will bring together performers from Gangwon’s sister provinces in Canada, Japan, Indonesia, and Laos to celebrate the Winter Olympics.
Arcand, 20, is a rising star in the Alberta hoop-dancing scene and previously performed alongside his dad, Dallas Arcand Sr., at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
“Honestly, I was kind of freaking out a bit,” he said of his reaction when he got the news about South Korea in November.
Also representing Alberta at the festival will be Wendy Walker and Dawn von Arnim of the a cappella Cree group Reconciliation. Arcand said the three of them are working on a special joint performance for their shows in South Korea.
Dancer takes flight
Arcand has been performing Indigenous dances since he was a kid, having made his debut doing a grass dance at the Calgary Stampede when he was eight. He grew up with his dad (a world-champion hoop dancer who has performed at the 2010 and 2012 Olympics) travelling hundreds of thousands of kilometres a year as they crisscrossed the continent doing performances, learning the techniques and significance of the dance all the while.
Arcand said he did his first public hoop dance when he was 12, performing alongside his dad before some 20,000 people at the Calgary Stampede.
“Honestly, I was scared as hell the first time,” he said, but his dad told him he could either get up on stage or turn in his event pass.
“He gave me no choice … either do it or go home!” he said, smiling.
Arcand said he started doing his own shows when he was 15, and now performs full-time, having recently done gigs in St. Albert and the Northwest Territories. His show incorporates dance, cultural lessons, and traditional flute and guitar music.
Arcand said he likely caught the attention of the South Korean Olympic organizers after two shows he did recently for South Korean badminton and ski teams at the Edmonton Fantasyland Hotel. He had never been to South Korea, and wasn’t sure what to expect there.
Arcand said he gets a sense of pride and fulfillment from being a full-time performer, and hoped this performance would encourage others to achieve in life.
“What’s really cool about this is you get to be proud to be native,” Arcand said, adding that he heard from audience members about casual racism they had experienced in Canada.
“I want to lead by example and inspire youth out there and show them they can do anything they set their mind to.”
Arcand is scheduled to perform at the Gangneung Olympic Park on Feb. 10 and at the Gangneung Arts Centre on Feb. 11, Richtscheid said.
Visit https://www.olympic.org/pyeongchang-2018 for more on the Olympics.