Honouring the memory of Malyan through dance

·3 min read

An eclectic mix of Ktunaxa dancers, drummers, performers, singers and videographers have brought Kootenai flavour to life through performance.

The Ktunaxa Nation Theatre Dance Troupe Society (KNTDTS) has approximately 50 members today.

“The Ktunaxa Nation dance troupe is actually the legacy of our elder who took us under her wing and shared many social songs with us when we were 18 — I was around 17, 18 anyways,” explained Janice Alpine, Ktunaxa Nation Theatre Dance Troupe Society manager by phone. “She shared with us some songs — a lot of the Ktunaxa songs. We call them war dance, but they’re pow wow songs. The dance troupe society was formed in her legacy because she definitely taught us a lot.”When the troupe was initially established in 1999, there were as many as 75 performers, but today the number of participants fluctuates based on the availability of its members. The KNTDTS premiered at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre in June of 2001 with a drumming group known as Chief Cliff, who travelled to the community from Elmo, Montana.

“Before that started, there were no events or social gatherings happening (in the area), so we started developing that and getting back into our pow wows and social events like that. There are a lot of Ktunaxa songs that she taught us to go along with various ceremonies,” explained Alpine, crediting Ktunaxa elder Maryanne Michel (Malyan). “When you’re at a pow wow, there are so many different ceremonies that happen.”

Ktunaxa elder Maryanne Michel (Malyan) brought the community together to share the Ktunaxa culture and traditions, while encouraging participants to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

After Malyan passed away, the troupe continued to perform the traditional Ktunaxa teachings in her memory.

The KNTDTS has travelled to perform in Europe twice as well as in the Pacific Rim, completing more than 75 shows with songs and dances.

Today, the troupe is focused on incorporating traditional values and beliefs into the arts to showcase traditional Ktunaxa dancing. Services such as Ktunaxa themed theatrical shows and events as well as teaching traditional Ktunaxa protocols, health and wellness, reconciling historical impacts and workshops are now part of their repertoire.

“We referred to some scaled down events as dinner theatre. We also add commentary to let them know who is coming up and what they’re going to be doing,” said Alpine. “We also do theatre. I think it’s called Take A Stand for the fight around Jumbo Pass as well as a number of other theatres (performances). One was to do with the army. We have a lot of our men drafted into the army back in the late ’90s. We had a show for that. We’ve had other different themes.”

Eldene Stanley is currently acting as the troupe’s choreographer and producer. The duo collaborates to continuously build up the production with and for the communities it serves.

“She is a dancer and does a bit of singing still. She attends many pow wows,” concluded Alpine.

To contact the KNTDTS, please e-mail: ktunaxanationdancetroupe@gmail.com

Breanne Massey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer