DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Smiles of Success – DAREarts in Webequie 2012 Week 1

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Report from Lead Teacher – Geneviève Anthony
Bruce Springsteen uses a teleprompter when singing his own songs.
The kids in Webequie write, memorize and sing their own song in 3 days!
DAREarts and the First Roots Community of Webequie have come together again for the 5th time to create a three week program guided by the theme of one’s life journey. 
By focusing on the satisfaction of enjoying life’s moments, while accepting its turns and twists, we can accomplish our goals while savoring the process.
The youth of Webequie have been DAREed to write their own song, B-Boy to their traditional drumming and hand sew their own moccasins.
Each of the three sessions led by professional artists, are inspired and engaging. From the Dene First Nation of the North West Territories, D’Arcy Moses creates a focused energy to his classes. He steers the project through peer learning and a relaxed sense of humour. While he bounds around the portable classroom his student’s eyes are glued to their task, sewing bead after bead and learning how to thread sinew through impossibly slender needles. The students of Webequie have a kinship with D’Arcy that is almost enviable as they holler his name affectionately. Time checks keep the pace of the class galloping. “30 more minutes!”

The moccasins are coming together
While the women and girls create floral patterns, the men use the traditional images of wolves and the Medicine Wheel. Some bring their entire families during the evening sessions. Toddlers waddle around the room poking at the moose and elk hides and pointing at the rabbit and beaver pelts. The Sewing Portable is bone quiet at times with only the whispered questions “which scissors cut the hide and which ones cut paper?” The students ask to take their work home and carefully wrap each of the pieces and tools in a Northern Bag. The room exits quietly. When they return there has been further progress. Their disciplined stitches are becoming more and more consistent. The joints in their hands hurt that aching pain, that once experienced, is difficult to forget.
Hailing from South Africa, Glenn Marais’ classrooms are like a slow moving rollercoaster that plods upwards, until it is speeding to a climatic explosion of joyous triumphant singing. Glenn’s gentle yet firm style is necessary as lyric and song writing exposes one’s soul and consequently can be very demanding of the students. He repeats that they only need to “start with a word and then two”.  In groups of four or five the students initially look at each other with awkward blank stares, not knowing where and how they can express their feelings. After much encouragement and support from Glenn, as he spontaneously breaks out into song, one in each group has the confidence to take action and put the first deep genuine expression down on paper. “My brother used to do drugs, it hurt our family”. “My father isn’t with us anymore”,” I am 14 but I know that drugs and alcohol can really cause a lot of problems”. Glenn always is honoured by the trust the kids have in him and receives each one of their often painfully experiences as a gift.
As the verse, pre-chorus and chorus take shape so does the classroom. More students are standing and walking around. They are visiting the Garage Band Station, plucking away at Glenn’s guitar, humming tunes to themselves, sharing their back stories with one another. The music and songs that are written with Glenn are always fantastic but observing his students learn more about themselves and each other is equally incredible. When they stand together, hearing their own words roar in unison, the once awkward faces break into triumphant beaming smiles of success.

First generation Canadian-Vietnamese Dancer, Lee Pham, asks as much as he gives.
B-Boying/Girling, commonly but incorrectly known as “Break Dancing” came out of New York City, during a time when community was needed more than ever. Lee Pham, a.k.a. Lethal of Supernaturalz, introduces Webequie to the exciting, energetic, physically demanding, precise world of B-Boying/Girling. Toprock, confidence poses, footwork, spins, drops and freezes demands the students to stick with Lee as he counts in “5, 6, 7, 8…”They sweat and laugh together as they get better, one attempt after another. The group is broken into separate crews, who recognize that as much as they are divided – they are united. Lee maintains momentum throughout his 2-hour long sessions by continually switching gears from choreography, to learning new moves, to playing seemingly unrelated activities (that tie in to choreography and steps later). The music pounds and their bodies move through slow motion walks to staccato paced sequences. The girls are in awe of Lethal and his abilities and sometimes creep to the back only to find the music drawing them out again. The guys see themselves in the highly motivated Lee and strive to reach the bar he has raised.

“Let’s try again, and 5,6,7,8…”
Art is a tool that one can use to self heal. DAREarts believes that the arts can redirect our student’s life paths away from the roads that are littered and clogged with destructive challenges; that the arts can guide one through, over and into opportunities that are creative and uplifting. Webequie 2012 thus far has proved this belief to be true.

Facebook statuses which often read “I’m bored”, now read “I’m in really lot of pain, from breakdancing… feels awesome:P”. We have one more week here and I can’t wait to see what the kids of Webequie will bring.

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