“Okanagan Inspired” is a new weekly series of articles offering a peek into the stories and inspirations of Pentictonites who hold creative roles in the community.
Nadine Wilson of Divercity Dance in Penticton is on a mission to promote inclusivity and diversity through teaching dance.
Wilson was born and raised in the unceded traditional territory of Bella Bella and is Heiltsuk of the Heiltsuk Nation and Blackfoot of the Siksika Nation on Treaty 7 Territory.
“I come from a long line of Blackfoot traditional dancers, many of which were world champion pow wow dancers. I grew up watching them compete and attended many ceremonies and traditional dances and was in total awe of my culture. I learned traditional dances during pow wows and we learned dances and songs in Kindergarten. That’s where I found my passion for dance. My sister and I would find living room blankets and use them as shawls so we could practice pow wow dancing at home,” says Wilson.
“As I grew older I didn’t have access to dance classes so I started working at the dance studio so I could afford lessons.”
After returning from travelling and learning that a friend was moving to Penticton, Wilson decided to join her and helped get her a teaching job at the Penticton School of Dance. That was ten years ago, and she has fallen in love with the scenery and beauty of Penticton, the people here and the work she does.
Wilson has taught all ages and all kinds of dance, like ballet, hip hop, jazz, contemporary and musical theatre but she specializes in heels dance, which are dances you do in high heels. She also hopes to continue gaining the expertise she feels she needs to teach traditional dance, but is still learning and practicing.
Divercity Dance, which Wilson founded in December, is currently limited and unable to do dance classes in person due to COVID-19, however they will be uploading all kinds of online instructional videos that will be available on their website this week.
They will be offering hip hop dance, jazz, heels and contemporary classes for adults. Wilson’s focus when beginning Divercity Dance was just that.
“I wanted to focus on diversity and inclusivity through the music selection, our choreography, costume choices, and terminology used. Growing up as a dancer I experienced lots of toxicity, even with just the terminology in dance and the education around it, so now I work to ensure that it is a safe and comfortable place for everyone to feel welcome and included,” says Wilson.
Although it is often ignored, Wilson felt it is important to learn the sometimes dark history of dance origins that she wishes she had been taught when learning herself. She now includes that history in her teaching.
“You can’t actually teach the context of culture without learning about the racism. That is really important to understand and learn,” Wilson adds.
“All of my instructors for Divercity Dance participate in inclusivity, diversity and sensitivity training and are body and sex positive and welcoming to all LGBTQ2+ and Black, Indigenous and people of colour. Just anyone else that falls through the crack sometimes.”
She wants to ensure everyone can dance in a safe, positive and welcoming environment and not just focus on a typical demographic of dancers.
“We’re always evolving and educating along the way as our world continues to evolve as well,” Wilson adds.
“I love people who have passions and follow them. No matter who you are, if you are just committing to whatever it is, I’m drawn to those kinds of people. Passion and authenticity inspire me, so just do it, get out of your comfort zone and go for it. You never know until you try, and I guarantee you, I can teach you how to dance.”
The same advice goes for anyone wanting to teach.
“If you want to teach, do your due diligence and know the roots of what you are teaching. Spend some time, learn the true history and really spend your time practicing and becoming a master!”
Wilson recommends the best song to dance to is Bruno Mars- 24K Magic.
“It’s great for everyone, all ages and is just so good!”
Wilson encourages that people support the arts community as much as you can right now.
“With all these restrictions, the art community is really hurting especially the dance industry, so please show your support!”
This content was originally published here.