Trail Dispatch – Hip Hop Thrives in Clyde

hiphop_02.jpg Temperature: 10 °F / -12 °C
Wind: 16 MPH / 26 KPH
Cloud Cover: Partly sunny
Sunrise: 4:39 a.m.
Sunset: 10:28 p.m.

The scene was bumpin’ at the community hall last night as the Clyde River Hip Hop Dancers brought down the house. The group of twenty or so, most between the ages of 6 and 20, spun, flipped, kicked, and popped to the driving beat. A crowd of 150 people looked on, cheering, smilling, nodding to the rhythm and gasping at some of the more acrobatic feats.

Saila Qayaq has been dancing with the group since it started in August of 2006. It was Saila who first told me about the hip hop group, when we first met at the post office where he works full time. I stopped back again today to congratulate him on his performance and learn more about the hip hop scene in Clyde River. The inspiration, he explained, came from a hip hop training provided by the Canada Floor Madsters. The group, based in Ottowa, is one of Canada’s oldest hip hop groups. They came to Clyde to host a week-long workshop in August. Shortly after the town created its own dance troop with regular practices three times a week. “We are learning real hip hop here not just imitating the stars”, Saila explained. “Real hip hop consists of five core elements: dance, beat box, graffitti art, emceeing, mixing and scratching. These are the core elements of hip hop – not the ‘bling bling’, clothes, attitude, degrading of women.”.

Since the initial training, the dancers have added more moves to their repertoire through step-by-step videos watched at home. Dancers then come back and share what they have learned peer-to-peer during practice. Saila rattled off a list of dances for me including “windmills, l-kicks, the hollow back, back spins, head spins, the worm, six-steps, top-rock, popping and the wave.” and demonstrated a few for me behind the post office counter.

Dancing has been part of Inuit culture for centuries. Kilaujaq, the traditional drum dance of the Arctic, is an excellent example of this. I spoke with Marie Airut (wife of Lukie Airut) for an elder’s perspective on the dances. “Square dance, hip hop, drum dance, it’s all the same…to be happy with other people” she explained. “When we want to have a good time or be with other people, we dance. [Kilaujaq] is something we do for special occasions if we want to celebrate something. We invite people into a huge igloo for a big drum dance. In my culture only the man plays the drum (known as a qilaut) and the ladies sing the song…aye ya ya. I know how to sing this song.”

As hip as he is to the latest dance trends, Saila is also steeped in his native tradition. He was chosen to perform the Kujusinig with youth from throughout the north during 2007 Canada Winter Games. Kujusinig is a dance performance integrating hip hop and traditional inuit dance. Both hip hop and Kilaujaq are represented on the black sweatshirt Saila and the other dancers wear around town. On the back, printed in yellow graffitti letters, is the word ‘Sapilqtailigit’. “This means ‘Don’t Give Up”, explained Saila. “Drugs and alcohol are a reality for some young people here. Some struggle with suicide. We don’t wan’t people to give up their hopes and dreams.” Saila sees hip hop as a healthy alternative for young people in Clyde, providing a release for anger and restlessness on the dance floor. Seeing the pride and confidence in the Clyde River dancers was an inspiration to all us of lucky to catch their performance last night.


Click Here to watch Hip Hop Thrives in Clyde video 2.05 Mb

Don’t give up the dance Clyde River!



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