In February, FAAM’s list of ballet happenings in Indian country included Moccasins En Pointe, a collaboration between Colorado Ballet, the Mandaree Singers, and Lakota fancy shawl dancer Keya Clairmont. Those attending the 44th Annual Denver Powwow this weekend can catch another performance of the piece on March 24 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm at the Denver Coliseum.
Moccasins En Pointe combines Clairmont’s fancy shawl dance with classical ballet, as she is joined onstage by dancers from the Colorado Ballet. A video posted by Colorado Ballet shows Clairmont teaching the ballet dancers the step techniques of fancy shawl dancing.
Ballerina Alexandra Wilson said, “It’s very different from ballet. In ballet, we’re very into the floor, and this is off of the floor. Jumping in demi-pointe [a position in which the dancer is on the balls of the feet]is something that we’re told not to do our whole lives, so we’re retraining our bodies.”
Clairmont and the ballerinas also noted the difference in their shoes and how it affects dancing. This kind of cultural exchange is a small example of the kind that the New Cultural Works hopes to encourage. According to a Colorado Ballet press release, the purpose of the New Cultural Works project is “to explore Colorado’s people and heritage in order to create a diverse body of new works by emerging choreographers.”
In the video, Clairmont describes what fancy shawl dancing is to her.
“This isn’t just a dance. It’s who I am,” she said.
For more on Indigenous ballet, see upcoming print issues of First American Art Magazine. The magazine can be bought at bookstores or ordered online through the FAAM website.
Denver March Powwow will be March 23 through 25. More info.