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Library hosts Métis jigging class

Complete with traditional kitchen party
LEARN TO JIG — The St. Albert Public Library is hosting a free course on Métis jigging starting March 25, 2023. Shown here are the D-Town Steppers from Dauphin, Manitoba, demonstrating Métis jigging during the Métis Spring Festival at Servus Place in St. Albert, May 19, 2018. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert residents will soon get to kick up their heels with a Red River jig at a Métis kitchen party, with the help of dance lessons offered by the city library.

Edmonton Métis educator Aura Leddy is running a free, four-part jigging class this spring at the St. Albert Public Library, starting Saturday, March 25.

Library public services manager Stephanie Foremsky said the idea for this class — likely the first of its kind ever offered at the library — emerged from the Métis learning circle event held at the library last November, which she and Leddy attended. Leddy noted the library’s Forsyth Hall was ideal for jigging, and she and Foremsky came up with the idea for a class as a way to promote reconciliation and share Métis culture.

“Reconciliation doesn’t have to be really sad all the time,” Foremsky said.

“This is such a beautiful culture and this is a really celebratory way to learn more about the Métis.”

Leddy, whose family is from St. Albert, said she planned to teach guests the basics of jigging and a few of the social dances, such as the Red River Jig and the warrior waltz. Guests should expect to meet new friends and get a decent workout.

“It’s all about celebrating community.”

Kitchen culture

The Métis jig is an energetic dance which combines fiddle playing with First Nations, Scottish, and French-Canadian footwork, reports the Manitoba Métis Federation. The dance is believed to have started in the mid-1800s, with the first written reference to it made in 1860.

Leddy said she learned to jig from her mother and grandmother, but lost interest as she went through school. Then came a fateful day in university when her mom dragged her, along with her sister, to a jigging class.

“As soon as I heard that music and got my feet going, it was like I had never stopped jigging,” she said.

The basic Métis jig step sees dancers hop from foot to foot while sometimes kicking the floor as if scuffing their heels against it, suggests a video lesson from the Rupertsland Centre for Teaching and Learning. These steps are interspersed with “changes” or fancier steps that kick in when the fiddle music changes.

“Métis jigging is really all about your feet,” Leddy said, with little to no use of the arms.

Moccasins are the best type of footwear for jigging, as they let your feet slide across the ground as you kick and step, Leddy said. Tap-dancing shoes and socks are also common.

Leddy said jigging is commonplace at Métis social gatherings, and in the past was a mainstay of Métis kitchen parties, where families would dance, sing, and share stories long into the night.

Christina Hardie, public programs and heritage sites manager with the Arts and Heritage Foundation of St. Albert, said anyone who finishes Leddy’s course will get to take part in a kitchen party April 15 held at one of the historic Métis homes in Grain Elevator Park. She planned to have tea and bannock and fiddle music by St. Albert-area musicians at the party.

“Everyone has learned the dances. Let’s just come together and have a party,” Hardie said.

Leddy said jigging makes her feel happy and whole, adding she is super excited by the prospect of holding a kitchen party.

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to give to people, that ability to experience having that fun social moment where we can celebrate dance and have fun with each other,” Leddy said.

The course runs Saturdays from March 25 to April 15 and is recommended for ages six and up. Visit to register.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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