“What would I say my style is? It depends on what project I’m working on… I liked to say ‘contemporary aboriginal dancer’ for a long time, but that’s pretty broad – there are so many kinds of aboriginal dance and it’s all different… If you were writing a poem, you’d use whatever words and meters you can, whatever you need to get it across… my style is like that, but I’ve never given it name,” says Whitehorse-based dancer Andra Hunter.
Hunter has been a fixture in the Yukon dance scene since the ’80s, when “the Whitehorse dance scene was just getting started,” she says. She danced for five seasons with the ever-popular and long-running dance troupe the Frantic Follies before leaving to study dance in Edmonton. Since then she has been involved in performances as Chinook Winds (1996) and Raven’s Tale.
“It only lasted one season, but I was really proud of Raven’s Tale. It was a song/dance/storytelling project in the early 2000’s… a lot of people who are well known First Nations performers were in that,” she says.
Hunter says she has also done many solo performances, but she loves collaboration.
“I love dancing solo, whether it’s my creation or someone else’s – but I like to collaborate too… I like working with a group of people where we can create something greater than the sum of its parts by coming together,” she says.
Hunter identifies as First Nations and grew up in and around the Whitehorse-area. She says she likes to say she was, “born and raised in the territory of the Tagish-Kwan – the people who live at the headwaters of the Yukon River,” as this reflects a more realistic understanding of the way First Nation’s people traditionally lived on the land.
“When Native peoples were more nomadic, people used to go to different places at different times of the year. The current divisions (of peoples and land) were assigned by the government,” she says.
Hunter has studied multiple dance disciplines, including ballet, modern dance and native dance. She has a diploma in modern dance and choreography and done work at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, where she “got to work with some movers and shakers,” in the dance scene, she says.
“When I was first introduced to (modern) First Nations dance it really piqued my interest. I thought ‘this is mixing everything together, it’s very cool!” she says.
Despite being an accomplished dancer, Hunter still loves to learn. In 2008 she started taking belly dancing lessons.
“There’s a class here in Whitehorse… I took it and I fell in love with belly dancing, and now I do that, too,” she says.
Currently, Hunter is working on a dance/storytelling project about a mother goddess called Navarra, which is based on something she started two years ago during the 2014 Homegrown shows. The project is still being developed.
“Dance is storytelling, but it’s not always accessible – it’s too abstract and people don’t always ‘get’ it… so I wanted to get more involved in theatre… I’ve been interested in creation myths and the divine feminine for a long time and (in this work) Navara decides she wants to make something beautiful, so she makes our world and she makes us… I want to expand on all that… to look at aspects of my First Nations culture… I don’t quite know how it will go.”
Hunter is currently involved in the Map of the Land, Map of the Stars project with Gwandaak Theatre, who are “absolutely awesome to work with,” she says.
Map of the Land, Map of the Stars has shows planned in Whitehorse in March, but the dates have not yet been confirmed. For more information on this project please visit www.GwaandakTheatre.ca.