Virtual Red River Jigging Contest Swings Through Fort Chipewyan
From February 1 until February 14, virtual jigging videos filled the Facebook dance floor in the Arts Council Fort Chipewyan Community Group.
Living rooms turned into virtual dance halls with gorgeous fiddle music and cheers from virtual audiences filming the dancers competing for cash prizes in Fort Chipewyan’s very first Virtual Red River Jigging Contest.
Arts Council Wood Buffalo partnered up with Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation to host the contest and encourage some healthy competition between community members to see who has the best jigging skills.
During the competition, 24 jigging videos were submitted for five categories including Elders, Adults, Teens, Youths, and even Tiny Tots. Dancers’ ages ranged from 72 years old to 9 months old. One submission included a jigging puppy. (The puppy was disqualified for going over the limit of two legs per dancer.)
Some dancers chose a more subdued performance, wearing moccasins and sweatpants, or having the camera focused on their fancy footwork. Other dancers took the opportunity to showcase their traditional attire and proudly displayed their Nation’s flags, banners and artwork.
Throughout the videos, sashes and tassels swayed to the jiggers’ feet, and dancers’ smiles blazed as they swung to the fiddles for virtual audiences.
The contest kicked off with a virtual dancing lesson on the Red River Jig by Donna Aubichon, Rural Arts Support Liaison for Arts Council Wood Buffalo.
The Red River Jig is a proper name attributed to both the Canadian Métis and the First Nations in reference to a traditional dance and accompanying fiddle tune.
Jigging is influenced by the dance styles of the Métis, Scottish, Irish, French and First Nations ancestors. The Red River Jig, accompanied by a single fiddle or a larger band, is up-tempo and energetic, with extra and irregular beats to make the music lively and fast.
Métis jigging originated in the Red River area, which straddles the North Dakota-Minnesota border and flows northward into Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The jig a combination of First Nations dancing, and Scottish and French-Canadian step-dancing, and reel, jig and quadrille steps. Some of the more popular jigs are the “Red River Jig,” the “Rabbit Dance,” the “Broom Dance” and the “Sash Dance.”
The Red River Jig means a lot to the community of Fort Chipewyan. Elders love to watch the young ones dance and the young ones love to watch and learn from their Elders when they dance. The Red River Jig is a tradition for the community and a huge part of the local culture.
“At any gathering you can be sure that some jigging is going to happen,” said Donna Aubichon. “It’s one of the highlights of the night, so to be able to host a virtual jigging contest for our community was very exciting. We had great feedback from the community.”
Winners were announced on February 19 and $1,400 was awarded in prizes thanks to the generosity of Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation who donated the prizes.
Even though the dances were filmed separately from the homes of participants, as social media filled with videos, the community came closer together in the spirit of dance, music and friendly competition.
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