Métis Franco-Ontarian, originally from Sudbury, Brad Lafortune moved to Ottawa to complete his university studies, about ten years ago. Today a full-time physiotherapist, he also offers Métis dance classes to young and old in the region.
Her lessons are part of the programming – virtual, pandemic requires – offered this spring by the Ottoman cultural dissemination organization MASC, in schools and in the community.
For me, [la danse], it’s an interesting and engaging way to share my culture with everyone.
In its workshops, students are introduced to the basics of traditional Métis dance, but above all to its history and its importance.
Métis were created hundreds of years ago by a blend of European and First Nations cultures, says Brad Lafortune.
And our dance demonstrates it perfectly, because it is a mixture of Irish-Scottish dance and that of First Nations pow-wows.
Be proud of your culture
This gives him the opportunity to explain
why this mixture was so important to the survival of Métis culture, and to explain the role that Métis have played in history, he continues.
Because for him, teaching the dance of his ancestors contributes not only to nurture his pride in his culture, but also to preserve his heritage – too often forgotten, according to him –
by making it known, by sharing ithe says.
Aboriginal history in Canada is the foundation on which our country was created. It’s important to recognize it.
We need to celebrate our identity and show that we are still here in Canada, he insists.
But Brad Lafortune remains optimistic about the future of First Nations culture in the country.
There was a period when there was more prejudice. But more and more, the younger generations are proud of their identity [et le montrent], whether through dance, clothes, language, he says, adding that we are witnessing a “renaissance” of the culture of the First Peoples.
Building relationships, but virtually
Affected by the strike in the school environment in Ontario, Brad Lafortune had already been forced, last winter, to rethink how to offer his workshops. The COVID-19 pandemic is now forcing him to offer his courses online.
Although teaching dance through a screen is a challenge, the instructor nevertheless emphasizes the links that this discipline allows to forge, despite the distance.
The arts create beyond a physical link, but also a mental link, in the mind, with culture, he believes.
Because despite everything, dance remains, according to him, a means of getting closer – or at least, in this case, of bringing our cultures closer.
With information from Marilou Lamontagne