JJ Lavallee, Eloi Homier, Fagen Furlong and Lyric Tsuji (from left) of Compaigni V’ni Dansi, a Métis dance group from Vancouver, are among the performers in the upcoming Sum̓sháthut (Sun) Festival. (Photo courtesy Vickie Legere)

JJ Lavallee, Eloi Homier, Fagen Furlong and Lyric Tsuji (from left) of Compaigni V’ni Dansi, a Métis dance group from Vancouver, are among the performers in the upcoming Sum̓sháthut (Sun) Festival. (Photo courtesy Vickie Legere)

Dance society opens season with Indigenous solstice celebration in Nanaimo

Second annual Sum̓sháthut (Sun) Festival comes to Beban Park social centre Dec. 18

An Indigenous winter solstice celebration that was forced online last year due to COVID-19 is now seeing the light of day.

On Dec. 18, Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society is kicking off its 2021-22 season with the second annual Sum̓sháthut (Sun) Festival at Beban Park social centre. Organizer Tsatassaya White of Snuneymuxw and Hupacasath First Nations describes it as “a variety show of Indigenous song and dance.”

“First and foremost I’m really excited that this year everyone can connect in person,” White said. “It’s going to be such a delight to have a live show.”

Last year a public health order prohibiting social gatherings was extended only two weeks before showtime and White said it was “a big scramble” to present the festival online instead.

“We had been planning to do small live events and so we pushed through and everything went online and … it was well received,” White said. “We had an amazing cast from all over North America and inspirational speakers and singers, dancers, and we had a great audience. We actually had a really good viewership.”

This year’s performers include vocal group Salish Shxw’aluqwa’ from Snaw-naw-as First Nation, Lekwungen Dancers from Songhees First Nation, DJ GG from Tseshaht First Nation accompanied by Nanaimo’s DJ All Good, the Métis Compaigni V’ni Dansi from Vancouver and the Heshook-ish Tsawalk dance group, which is based in Nanaimo but represents 20 First Nations.

There will also be a fashion show by Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design featuring Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet, a screening of White’s dance film huulth huulth 2020 and, new for this year, vendors will be offering their wares as well.

White said the winter solstice, which marks the return of longer, sunnier days, is like “New Year for Indigenous people.” She said it’s a time of spiritual renewal, when one can let go of negative energy and move forward into the new year with good intentions. She said she’s looking forward to celebrating that with others.

“The last two years of this pandemic have been really challenging in so many ways,” she said. “And to be together and share, I think it’s going to be a really enriching experience for everyone.”

WHAT’S ON … Crimson Coast Dance Society presents the second annual Sum̓sháthut (Sun) Festival at Beban Park social centre on Dec. 18 from 3 to 8 p.m. Tickets range from $5 to $45, available here. Masks and proof of vaccination required.

RELATED: Indigenous artists mark winter solstice with new music and dance festival



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