Westwind Thunders dance troupe takes southern Alberta schools by storm

Click to play video: 'Westwind Thunders takes southern Alberta schools by storm'
Westwind Thunders takes southern Alberta schools by storm
WATCH: An elementary to high school student dance group based out of Raymond and Cardston are taking southern Alberta by storm with Indigenous and contemporary dance. Jaclyn Kucey introduces us to the Westwind Thunders who made a stop in Taber on Tuesday to talk about their unique dance styles and storytelling. – Mar 28, 2023

Students from Taber Central School in Taber, Alta., filled their gymnasium Tuesday to watch Westwind Thunders blow them away.

Made up of elementary to high school-aged students, the group was formed in 2022 by Jerry (J.J.) First Charger, a family school liaison counsellor with Westwind School Division.

Jerry had been instructing two separate groups, the Cardston Soaring Eagles and Raymond All Star Entertainers, for more than a decade.

The groups were shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had a feeling that if restrictions ever fully lifted then people would be calling to say, ‘We want your group to come back,’ and that’s exactly what happened,” said Jerry.

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Last year, he decided to merge the groups.

“We’re not just stagnant in one view, we’re really a multicultural-based program and just inviting all students to say, hey, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are or what your skills are, if you’re willing to grab a hoop and get out there and dance, just do it,” he said.

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Jerry uses his background in hoop dancing, B-boy breakdancing, First Nations singing, and drumming to teach students. He and his son Jerrhan, in Grade 11, are both world-champion hoop dancers

“It gives us a different way to be active,” said Jerrhan.

Grade 8 student Johnny Manson enjoys the educational aspect of the program and the emotional release.

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“Teaching hoop dancing, grass dancing, chicken dancing and all that is kind of like showing them parts of our culture and breakdancing is a way to fight without violence,” said Johnny.

“To me, the greatest part about it is seeing them perform,” said Jerry.

Students say the group is a great way for them to spend time with friends and learn new skills.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Dance

“It shows what the younger generation is going to bring to us and we got some pretty good dancers out there,” said Jerrhan.

Taber was the fourth stop on the Westwind Thunders tour. Their storm will be rolling through southern Alberta until May.

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