Bridging culture through dance

Marcus Merasty dances at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Centre during Aboriginal Achievement Week. Submitted photo courtesy Danny Knight.

Marcus Merasty hasn’t been dancing for very long, but the local resident has already developed a passion for the art.

Merasty, who is originally from Pelican Narrows, moved to P.A. when he was 14. He wasn’t into dance then.

In his late teens, Merasty discovered a love for traditional Métis dancing, such as jigging and square dancing. His passion grew from there.

“My friends got me into it because a lot of my friends from Pelican know how to jig and they jig for fun,” he said.

“They got me into it and taught me at the beginning.”

A year later, Merasty was hired by a contemporary dance company from Regina to participate in a project bringing together Métis, First Nations and contemporary dance. The collaboration was one of his first exposures to contemporary dance styles.

“That’s where I first got interested in contemporary dance,” he said.

“That was three years ago. Since then I have been interested in pursuing a career as a professional contemporary dance artist.”

That journey was made a little easier lately, as Merasty learned he was the recipient of a $2,500 Prince Edward Arts Scholarship from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. The scholarship provides funding to Saskatchewan residents who have been accepted or who have applied to study or train in arts programs at accredited post-secondary institutions or recognized arts training institutions. Merasty, who will be attending Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dance, was one of only two dancers to receive the scholarship, and the only recipient from Prince Albert.

The scholarship will help ease the financial burden for Merasty, who plans to work to help pay his way through school.

Attending the school of dance is a big deal for Merasty, especially because most of his peers are significantly younger and have been dancing for a longer period of time.

“I’m probably four years older than everyone there,” eh said.

‘They started when they were ten or something, and I started when I was 19, so it’s pretty special.”

While Merasty will be studying contemporary dance, the traditional Métis dances that spurred his love for the craft still play a big role in his life.

“I’m actually in Regina right now, teaching at a summer school, teaching children ages 8-13 traditional Métis dancing,” he said. “I’ve been teaching and practicing that dance all summer.”

Down the road, Merasty said, he may even be able to combine the traditional dance styles with contemporary dance.

“I think that’s a possibility when I get more contemporary dance training,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that’s going to happen in my career.”