Local Umiujaq Cirqiniq participants in a group pyramid led by Senior Instructors Michael Nappatuk, Rachel David and Mina Rita Niviaxie in August 2021. © Emily Fowler

    Silver Linings

    In January 2020, Cirqiniq Junior instructors from across Nunavik travelled to Montreal to participate in a National social circus event, Cirkaskina. They created a beautiful performance in collaboration with Artcirq and Cirque Hors Piste, directed by Samuel Tétrault from Les 7 Doigts de la Main. This was a national event that brought together 150 youth from over 17 social circus organizations across Canada. This gathering happened just one month before the world came to a standstill due to COVID-19 and was a dramatic contrast to what would lie ahead. 2020 was an opportunity for the world to reflect and change. 

    For young people in Nunavik, this meant that any of the regular recreational programming shifted dramatically. For, Kativik Regional Government’s Recreation Department — who finance and facilitate the Cirqiniq program — it was also a time to pause, reflect and pivot along with the rest of the world. The celebrated social circus program has always placed a focus on investing in local leadership and the pandemic was the perfect opportunity for young leaders in the program to step into the spotlight. Early in 2020, Ivujivik based Senior Instructor Charlie Mark was the first Inuit social circus instructor to run independent local workshops supported by local Junior instructors. They ran socially distanced, masked social circus workshops and adapted the activities to keep participants safe. 

    Local leadership was the silver lining of this past year and a half and seeing the opportunity to sustain local programming, the Kativik Regional Government (KRG) supported Cirqiniq Junior Instructors to take the initiative to lead social circus workshops in their communities. Suasie Irqumia and Sarah Ittukalak in Puvirnituq ran weekly social circus workshops adapted to keep participants safe and still have fun. Aibillie Idlout and Rivers Saunders led workshops in Kuujjuaq while Tiilu Ilimasaut and Jennifer Adams ran workshops in Kangiqsujuaq. Kangirsuk also received a two-week visit with Kayla Tukkiapik, Tommy Putulik and Senior instructor Geneviève Bernier. The social circus workshops were welcomed by the youth and supported by the local recreation coordinators. 

    The annual summer camp was cancelled for the second year in a row as the health and wellness of the region has been a priority in the decision-making process for Cirqiniq programming. 

    With hope in sight, the Cirqiniq Program is re-launching its social circus tours this fall and winter to support the social well-being and the mental and physical health of the youth who love to participate in this inclusive social circus and leadership program. Umiujaq participant and leader-in-training Noriko Tooktook says, “Circus feels like family. It’s hard work but I like learning. I am excited for other people to watch and enjoy.” The KRG initiative has been ongoing for 12 years with community visits, annual summer camps, cultural exchanges, leadership training and creation projects. This year, we hope to send double vaccinated Senior instructors to Nunavik communities, following the COVID-19 protocols in place. 

    Circus Performers practise movement choreography for Cirkaskina. Sarah Innilik, Saali Gordon, Susie Tukkiapik, Bobbie Idlout from Cirqiniq and Annie Rose Hanniliaq from Artcirq. © Danielle Bouchard

    For the first time in the history of the Cirqiniq Program, two Inuk Senior instructors travelled together to offer social circus workshops in Kangirsuk. Minnie Ningiuruvik and Christopher Angatookalook, both professional circus artists from the Nunavik circus troupe Tupiq A.C.T. (Arctic Circus Troupe), offered workshops in Kangirsuk this August. It is with great pride that we acknowledge these young leaders who were once participants in the program and support them in taking the reins as they pass on their skills to a new generation of young people.

    What is Cirqiniq?

    For the past 12 years, Cirqiniq has been working collaboratively with KRG Recreation Department towards the goal of developing an autonomous regional Social Circus Program that provides inclusive accessible opportunities for youth (13-17) to use circus, visual and performance art, dance and music to develop important social skills. By fostering the integration of Inuit culture and social values such as self-esteem, a sense of belonging, creative expression and perseverance, Cirqiniq promotes healthy and positive lifestyles and encourages meaningful contributions to local communities. Additionally, the mission is to provide training opportunities for potential Apprentice/Junior Instructors/Inuit Senior (15-29) through intensive social circus training and creative sessions that integrate Inuit culture as well as ongoing opportunities for mentorship and implementation of their newly learned skills in both coaching and artistic creation during seasonal tours. 

    The pandemic was a silver lining opportunity for young local junior instructors to demonstrate their dedication to Cirqiniq and to show their capacity for leadership. It completed the mentorship circle! 

    VIARebecca Leonard and Véronique Provencher
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