Saving Sikumiut
Dance troupe looks south to increase profile

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 21/00) - The future of an Inuit dance troupe hangs in the balance due to lack of funding.

Gayle Reddick, the administrator for the seven-member Inuit dance troupe Sikumiut, says that core operation funding has so far not been forthcoming.

The troupe -- which has been gaining an international reputation, and performed in Europe, Greenland, and most recently to popular acclaim at the Great Northern Arts Festival -- has been overlooked by the Canada Council for the Arts and Nunavut arts funders.

The troupe has been receiving invitations to dance, which has kept them going, she says.

"We can't keep the dancers if we can't pay them."

But a recent association with an American firm may help raise their profile.

When the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation received an inquiry from Bronitski and Associates, the information was passed on to Sikumiut.

"We've had an agent/client relationship with them ever since," says Reddick.

"Through Gordon (Bronitski), we're currently working on a potential invitation to Korea in October and to Melbourne, Australia in March, as well as a couple of places in the States."

Reddick says Bronitski gets a group an invitation -- he represent several aboriginal groups, mainly Navajo and Cheyenne -- then raises the funds to get the group to the location.

"You lose a little bit of control but it frees up a lot of time. And if we get an engagement on our own, he doesn't take anything. If he gets us an engagement, he takes 20 per cent of any of the profits."

Reddick says the networking potential with Bronitski is great.

"So far we've been pretty much doing it on our own."

Bronitski, whose key motto is "Bringing to the world the best of Native North America", has a PhD, and is a former Fulbright Professor at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, specializing in aboriginal culture.

"I put them out to the world and if the world takes them, I get a percentage. I have an office in Denver and an office in Italy.

"We work with native people in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and now we're starting to work with indigenous people elsewhere. Traditional and contemporary arts, music, dance, fashion, film and video, theatre, photography, speakers, a variety of products and tourism," says Bronitski from his office in Denver.

"On Monday I have a Navajo poet going to a literary festival in Australia. The first Native American invited to the festival, whose language of expression is not English."

Bronitski is not native, and says he never pretends to be either.

"They (his client) choose a message, whether it be a T-shirt or a dance group, traditional or contemporary, whatever. Our job is not to affect the content of the message, it's to crank up the volume."

By the sounds of it, people all over the world over will be hearing the Sikumiut drums.