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Tamara Podemski Produces Canada’s Largest Indigenous Youth Showcase in Toronto

Tamara Podemski Produces Canada’s Largest Indigenous Youth Showcase in Toronto

Feature Image: Gakijiwanong Anishinaabe Nation, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Outside Looking In)

A celebration of Indigenous dance, music and visual art will take center stage at Toronto’s Meridian Hall as award-winning Anishinaabe artist Tamara Podemski produces Outside Looking In’s 17th Annual Showcase. The two-performance showcase (11 a.m. and 7 p.m.) will take place on Friday, May 10 and feature 175 Indigenous youth from 14 communities across Canada.

Tamara Podemski (Photo courtesy of Outside Looking In)

“Participating in OLI and performing on a major stage in Toronto is a vital opportunity for young Indigenous people to feel valued and be seen, and I am thrilled to help shine a spotlight on their hard work, dedication and artistry,” says Podemski.

Last year, the showcase’s theme was social justice. It was about having a voice and telling the truth – not hiding anymore, explains Hope Sanderson, CEO of Outside Looking In (OLI). “This year it’s: stand up, be active and leave a mark. Let them know you were there.”

The concept of “leave your mark” will draw inspiration from the vibrant world of street art and murals. With a fusion of traditional and modern musical influences, the energizing lineup of Indigenous performers will include Juno Award-nominated musical group Nimkii and the Niniis, Indigenous band STOiK, award-winning hip-hop artist and producer Plex, Indigenous hip-hop artist Jah’kota and Kanien’kehà:ka songwriter Semiah Smith.

The artworks of Windigo Army, an Indigenous street art collective from Chippewas of Rama First Nation, will be featured throughout the show, as will custom flags representing each of the 14 Indigenous communities.

The annual showcase will not only have the audience dancing in their seats but also ask people to think more deeply about Indigenous people and culture. “It is a spectacular piece of entertainment, but also education,” says Sanderson. “It changes some minds and stereotypes about Indigenous people that have been long held in this country.”

Pinaymootang First Nation, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Outside Looking In)

For Indigenous youth, especially those from remote areas where access to dance and mentorship is limited, performing on stage can be life-changing. Founded in 2007 by Tracee Smith, OLI is an Indigenous-led organization that empowers Indigenous youth and provides dance classes in remote communities to encourage school attendance.

“As a member of OLI’s Board of Directors for four years, I have witnessed the incredible impact the organization has on the lives of Indigenous youth,” says Podemski.

The program has witnessed a 96 per cent high school graduation rate among its participants, a stark contrast to the national average of 63 per cent for Indigenous youth. Further, 80 per cent of participants reported enhanced mental health and self-esteem, 90 per cent assigned a higher value to education and 86 per cent got better grades.

Nimkii and the Niniis. (Photo courtesy of Outside Looking In)

The annual showcase is part of a larger initiative that features the OLI Dance program, an accredited high school course focusing on contemporary and hip-hop dance, and the OLI Future Leaders and OLI Alumni programs that offer support in education and career readiness.

Tickets are $10 for the morning matinee and between $55 and $100 for the evening performance. They can be purchased through olishow.com, Ticketmaster, TO Live, over the phone at 1-855-985-2787 or 416-368-6161 x1 and at the Meridian Hall Box Office.

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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