Taking the stage: Courtney-Dawn
- NC Raine | May 24, 2022
When Courtney-Dawn Anaquod takes the stage, it may look like just one dancer. But on stage with her are many generations.
“I feel like my kookum’s spirit is coming through me when I dance. I feel that powerful connection to all my ancestors, like they’re all there beside me. It keeps me connected with them, and who I am,” said Anaquod.
If you’ve been to a pow wow, round dance, or jig in Saskatchewan in the past two decades, chances are you’ve seen Anaquod dance. Even for those unfamiliar with the finer details of dance, Anaquod’s mastery of her craft is unmistakable. It’s long been clear to her, and to audiences, that this is what she was born to do.
“Growing up, fiddle music is all I listened to. I went to bed listening to fiddle music, I would wake up and listen to it. It’s instilled in my brain,” she said.
“In elementary school, my friends would want to go and hang out at night, but I would rather go to dry-dances and dance to jig music.”
Anaquod, from Muscowpetung Saulteaux First Nation, has both First Nations and Métis heritage that fuels her love and drive to connect with her roots. A renowned jigging champion who started competing in 1999 and has far too many championships and accolades to list, is also a youth mentor, dance instructor, and founder of the Qu’Appelle Valley Dancers. And, Anaquod comes from a notable line of artists: she is the granddaughter of Fiddle Champion Morris Anaquod and Jigging Champion Theresa Anaquod, and daughter of musician Donny Anaquod.
“Dance keeps me grounded and connected to my cultures, traditions, and heritages. To be able to teach it, to pass those traditions down from generation to generation, is a complete passion of mine. And it’s important I pass them down to my daughter.”
Her daughter Georgia, 13, has certainly inherited those same passions, and talent. She started competitive dancing at just four years of age.
“My mom really inspires me all the time with her dance. She’s always there, encouraging me to do my best,” said Georgia. When she was five, Georgia was diagnosed with epilepsy, but the obstacle has never slowed her down, said her mother. Even now, Georgia commonly experiences stage-fright before performing, but once she begins dancing, those barriers melt away.
“The best part about it is going up there, even though I’m scared. It’s always fun to just go up and dance.”
Georgia said that, like her mother, dance is something she’s both meant to do and share with others.
Together, Anaquod and her daugther Georgia taught a series of dance classes at the Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre in April. The classes, three hours in length, took all ages from inexperienced dancers to those able to jig comfortably.
“I want to create a safe environment where there is no right or wrong way when you’re learning to dance. Your uniqueness comes through when you allow your body to feel that connection to the music. My daughter doesn’t dance like me, and I don’t dance like her,” said Anaquod.
“When you let your body feel the music, it’s like your soul is singing it.”
It’s that mental and spiritual health component that Anaquod is trying to infuse in all her lessons. She recently graduated from Saskatchewan Polytechnic with a two-year diploma in Mental Health and Wellness. Going through her own tragedies recently and having dance there to help her heal, Anaquod said there’s important mental health benefits everyone can learn from dance.
“I had to keep dancing (after experiencing tragedy) because dancing heals people. It can uplift the spirits in yourself and other people,” said Anaquod.
“Dancing is the centre of who I am. It keeps me together emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, all of those aspects. When we are stressed or going through something difficult, we will put on fiddle music and just dance.”