Why We Dance

By Bren Kolson

The Dene have many reasons to dance. Dene people dance because it is a part of a spiritual belief Dene Elders have repeated in myths, legends, songs, and stories to young children. The Elders know that the heartbeat of song, dance and the Spirit of the drum are in the soul of each child. The Dene say that the child is born with a drum in its hand. They also say that everyone must respect and acknowledge each child’s worth or he or she will never grow to discover a unique purpose in life (ECC- Dene Kede, Feb. 06, 2002). Everything is connected. Without the Creator’s songs or the drum to beat the songs, the Dene would have no dances.

Blondin, a North Slavey Elder, told me:

“As I drum right now, there’s a whole bunch of heart pulses going through my hand into my body. And that’s why when they’re going up to dance, they take their drums. It could be 10 drummers. They all take their drums and they start beating the heartbeat of the Creator.”

“The faster the heartbeat goes, the faster the drum is going to play and the faster the drum plays, the faster the song plays, the faster the people have to dance. The drum brings that ceremony.”

Besha Blondin says the drum sends out the vibration from the center of the Great Creator and connects the mind, body, emotions and spirit: “When you go up and dance, and you’re feeling stressed out or you’re feeling like just too much is coming on to you in life, you go to a drum dance; you put your slippers on.”

“Slippers have a lot to do with Drum dancing too because [footwear] connects you from the spirit life to Mother Earth and back up again. Your slippers can do that. If you use modern shoes, it’s pretty hard to go through all that rubber. But with shoes [that] are all natural, made of Mother Earth, it’s easy to get that connection.”

“So when you go up and dance, when the drum music and the dances are really powerful, and the right people are singing the songs and they’re playing the drums right, there’s only one voice, one drum. They’re all in the same beat, that’s going to lift you off the floor. You’re just barely touching that floor. That’s when your spirit, your mind, body, emotion with the drum and the singers are all connected with one voice, one spirit; that’s how it works. The spirits are going to put that power into you, and what happens to that power is that it goes out and it starts helping people that are sick in that place.”

The Dene teach that from birth until the return back to the Creator human beings should give thanks that include ceremonies, songs, drums and dances. This is a child’s birthright, the Dene say. The drum represents unity of self, others, the spiritual world and land, because the drums come from the trees and animal hides the Earth provides. The Dene know that Elders who have gone to the Great Creator still send messages through songs to the people who receive new songs.

This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online
Native Dance