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Nunavik Youth Perform

September/October 2011

Many of us older folks, especially those of us who live in small communities, are well acquainted with the echoes of that typical summertime lament teenagers are so famous for, “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do.”

To address this commonplace social dilemma, parents, educators, community organizers and invariably a dedicated cadre of volunteers work tirelessly to source or develop appealing youth-relevant activities — ones that will engage and satisfy the active minds and energetic nature of young people looking for fun things to do.

Creating good programming for youth is especially vital once school is out, when the days are long and everyone is thinking vacation, or has time on their hands. It does present a challenge.

In our modern age of smart phones, Internet, computer games and social media, the competition is stiff for those dedicated to engaging youth in any meaningful way. The time-honoured concept of a “summer camp” in its many shapes and adaptable forms can and often does prove a salvation, not only for recreation programmers and volunteers, but more importantly for participating youth as well.

One successful program, the popular eight day CIRQINIQ Summer Camp, held in Kuujjuaq at the end of June and ending the first week of July, lives up to that billing. Over the past two years, teams of dedicated senior instructors have visited every community (at least twice) working one-on-one with junior instructors, building their skills and teaching them how to run circus workshops in their Nunavik community.

The initiative has so far successfully unearthed the latent artistic urges and talents of 57 enthusiastic young Nunavimmiut from communities throughout the region.

Like her peers, 14-year-old Amber McLay, of Kuujjuaq, is drawn to the exciting smorgasbord of stagecraft, technical skills and performance opportunities that the CIRQINIQ camp makes available.

A very enthusiastic participant in all that life has to offer, Amber is immersed in many artistic and athletic extra-curricular endeavours during the academic year. She’s very active in the Youth Dance Program offered by her school. She’s an avid athlete, participating in soccer, badminton, swimming, gymnastics and jogging too.

CIRQINIQ is a natural fit for this very energetic, always busy, obviously happy teenager.

“I like it all, and I participated in all the workshops. It was a lot of fun!” Amber tells above&beyond.

“There’s a lot to be interested in. I’m on the squad of my school’s youth dance program. Last year we competed on an international level in Florida. CIRQINIQ really fits with my interests. I especially enjoyed the pyramid balancing and flyer part of the program. I also enjoyed the gymnastic aspects. But really, I liked it all. I enjoyed making my own dress in the costume workshop.”

When asked about her future, Amber is quite clear.

“Right now I’m very focused on my education. I’m in Secondary 2 and looking forward to graduating and moving on to pursue Social Studies. That’s what I’m most interested in.”

The CIRQINIQ Summer Camp initiative wrapped up its 2011 program with a parade in full costume through town, capped later that evening by their grand finale performance at the Katittavik Town Hall and Cultural Centre auditorium. A variety of entertainment featured brave but skilled displays of showmanship and daring, tempered by the always popular, but surprisingly difficult performance humour long associated with the fine art of clowning. Funny, yes, but definitely not as easy as it might look.

Eager to demonstrate their artistic interpretations of “weather” under the bright lights, the young performers wowed the audience with aerial feats and skills that included high wire acts, acrobatics and more, melded with dance, Inuit drumming and stunning makeup and costume design; all to a full house, standing room only crowd.

Even those in the community who were not able to attend the grand finale did not miss out. On their second last day of the camp, CIRQINIQSummer Camp put on a special show for local elders at the Tusaajiapik Elders’ Residence that presented more culturally relevant material that included juggling and throat singing.

Coordinated by the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) Department of Recreation and world-renowned performance group, Cirque du Soleil, the partnered initiative included support from the Village of Kuujjuaq, Jaanimmarik School and the Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre. The camp, drawing youth from many of the region’s small communities, also received the generous support of northern sponsors, Taamani Internet, Kuujjuamiut Inc., Air Inuit and First Air.

Everyone involved, including the audience, is already looking forward to the next CIRQINIQ Summer Camp, slated for July, 2012.