A Contemporary Aboriginal-Dance Passion

I have known Andrameda Hunter since she was a youngster, but when I recently met her for coffee, I was immediately taken by her radiant self-confidence as a young woman.

She is not only a skilled dancer, but she is also an engaging and creative performer who has been hired to assist artistic director Alejandro Ronceria in preparing the Yukon First N

ations (YFN) cultural contingent, to be performed in various venues in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The name of the project is The Land Remembers: Tale of Raven and Wolf. It will use the four seasons as a narrative structure and will present the best traditional and contemporary arts and artists of the Yukon. Against our Northern landscape, musicians, storytellers and dancers will showcase a powerful performing experience for the world.

Hunter credits her hire for this prestigious position to a series of serendipitous events connecting her to Ronceria. She recalls how she began dancing at the age of 12, when she took tap classes in Lana Beebe’s basement and moved on to jazz classes in the old Christ the King Elementary School gym (current home of the Music, Art and Drama program).

She danced at Northern Lights School of Dance, Dancers With Latitude, Leaping Feats and, in recent years, has taken up belly dancing. After graduating from high school, she attended Grant MacEwan University and graduated from a two-year dance program.

She remembers how she felt a little disillusioned at this time in her life, and she questioned how she could use her dance training and share her skills.

Then, in the summer of 1998, she went to the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts and participated in a six-week intensive of Aboriginal dance. It was here that she first met Ronceria, who choreographed an eagle solo on her.

“It was the first time I had heard of Aboriginal contemporary, even though I had been doing it on my own. I remember thinking, Wow, other people do this too!,” she continued.

“The eagle solo was awesome, and through many tears and trials of learning the choreography, it was the best performance I have ever done because of the emotional content in the piece.”

After Banff, in ’98, life got in the way and Hunter took a short hiatus from dance. She lost touch with Ronceria. “I remember thinking, I used to be a dancer; now I’m not. Whatever it takes, I have to keep dance in my life.”

In the summer of 2009, Hunter went to the Banff Aboriginal Dance Residency. This program was not as intensive as the one she attended in 1998: it was more like a work-in-progress. Here, after 11 years, she had the opportunity to work with Ronceria, once again.

“He is an amazing choreographer and teacher. He is from Columbia, so he has a different cultural background, but he reaches out to the dancers and tries to incorporate their ideas into his work.”

She went on to say that, because of his formal and classical training, his choreography is technically strong as well. “I would love to build my skills and somehow be able to shadow his work.”

Because of their work relationship as dancer and choreographer, Ronceria also saw in Hunter a skill set he could use as assistant director in the creation of the YFN project, The Land Remembers.

The position is very different from that of being a dancer. “I am making the ‘Bible’ of the production. It is much different than being in a show as a dancer.

“I miss being in the performing end of things … I sing along … my heart is still onstage, but this experience will make me a better performer.” She smiled and said, “Being a director is all about relationships. The production end of a show is rigid and clean. Nothing is for nothing.”

When asked about her future plans after the 2010 Winter Olympics, Hunter paused and reflected for a moment. She said that her dream is to share her knowledge and dance skills by being able to use a contemporary Aboriginal angle for teaching: “I don’t really want to give away any more than that, right now. This will definitely have to wait for a bit, anyway. My life in Vancouver next February will be crazy. I think I will have to start drinking coffee!”

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