Yukon First Nations artists heading to Olympics

The territory may not have an athlete competing in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in February, but Yukon artists will be well represented.

The territory may not have an athlete competing in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in February, but Yukon artists will be well represented.

On Monday at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse, the Council of Yukon First Nations announced aboriginal artists from throughout the territory will be heading to the Games to perform a roughly 45-minute piece that integrates various elements of their arts. The show will be performed at several Vancouver locations.

“It’s an interesting, unique representation of Yukon First Nations and stories and land,” said Patti Balsillie, director of marketing and communications for Yukon First Nations.

Coinciding with the announcement was the unveiling of the Yukon First Nations 2010 logo, a multicoloured Raven, which in aboriginal culture is said to have “made the world, bringing light, animals, fish and people to begin and sustain life on Earth,” according to the news release.

Heading south to the Games are 70 artists and staff, including 42 performers, 10 visual artists, eight youth and elders. Together, the artists will create mosaic of First Nation art that will be woven together for a performance piece overseen by renowned director, producer and choreographer Alejandro Ronceria.

“He is an internationally accomplished producer from South America and he is working with our performing and visual artists to build an incredible show that will launch here (in Whitehorse) in January and will take to Vancouver,” said Balsillie. “It may have the potential to do much more: to travel and go on the road in the future.”

Originally from Colombia, Ronceria has been in Canada for 20 years working with First Nations, but has also worked with aboriginal people from South and Central America over the last three decades.

“Obviously I had to do a lot of research to learn about the history of the land and to put together a program,” said Ronceria. “So my role as artistic director is to bring music, dance and visuals together to tell one little story in 45 minutes.

“The story is more of a celebration about the archetypes of the seasons, but through these we will see the land, a very strong element – a subtext – to the whole piece. Through that we will tell the stories of the areas, for the eight First Nations that are here, and we bring the music, storytelling and the dances.”

Program artists were selected by a jury made up of Yukoners from various cultural industries such as television, music, theatre and live performances.

The performances will be held at various locations during the Games with the highlight being performances at the Aboriginal Pavilion in Vancouver on Yukon’s Aboriginal Day, February 21 – not so coincidently the day before Yukon Day is held at the Games.

“We’ll be a part of (Yukon Day) in some way, be it our show or artists,” said Balsillie.

Dates and locations for the Whitehorse performances have yet to be determined.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com