Tapping our feet and clapping our hands, Emma, Laurel and I had the opportunity to enjoy the Jigging Competition at Festival du Voyageurs! Before arriving on location (Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface), we took advantage of our Festival macarons (badges) to receive a discount at Finales coffee shop on Rue Marion St. Hot drinks and tasty snacks in hand two helpful volunteers lead us through the somewhat confusing hallways, toward the south gym where the competition was held. Despite our presumptions, the stage actually boasts a nice lighting and sound system, and there are also many tables set up around the gym (cabaret style) for enthusiastic spectators to sit and relax.
Scoring an empty table toward the back (near the pulled pork stand; more on that later), our anticipation mounts. While we wait, a somewhat senior woman kneels in to ask me where we got our coffees. I politely indicate that at Finales coffee shop you receive a discount with your Festival macaron, and that sorry I do not see a coffee stand on site. As Laurel and Emma recount the event, however, the woman disappointingly skulks off, scowling and making some funny wrist movement! Hé Ho, little lady, don’t blame me when you’ve forgotten to bring a hot caffeinated beverage along!
As the competition begins we realize that due to our position at the back, it is difficult to see the jigging feet of each dancer. Ergo, we’re standing (which in retrospect probably made us seem even more enthusiastic; “So what if we love jigging…back off!”). The Red River Jig being the competitive dance style on display, participants must dance “authentically” which basically means without any taps or clickers on their shoe soles. Many dancers compete bare-foot, or in socks, while some wear shoes, moccasins, or leather calf-length embellished boots (also moccasins?). Dancers in the age category “9 and under” lead off the competition, and stealing the show is a pair of twin brothers that are only four years old. Though dancing together, each brother receives an individual evaluation, and in the end they take home bronze and silver! Felicitations, junior jiggers!
Up next is the serious styling of the “9 to 13 years” age category…an awkward stage of life produces some fantastic dancers. He Ho, those feet can fly! Finally the last category is ambiguously referred to as “Open” which I assume means “All ages above 13”. In this category there are ten participants (compared to just three in the 9-13 age range), yet only 8 prizes to be won. While the participants dance individually, I surprise myself with very little disdain for the repetition of the Jig music. According to Audreen Hourie, a Cultural and Historical Researcher for the Métis Culture and Heritage Resource Centre, “[t]o play the Red River Jig, the Fiddle is tuned differently, the bottom string is raised from a G up to A. The Red River Jig is a special piece of fiddle music that is played and danced in two sections. When the fiddle plays the high section, the dancer does a fancy jig step.” Fancy indeed…
To revisit the topic of pulled pork sandwiches, the very pleasant vendors hawking those porky morsels behind us mistakenly depict pigs as cannibalistic. Case in point: their logo. Mister Pig is about to dine on the fine, tasty ribs of his cousin Hank. It is widely known, however, that when given the opportunity most pigs would prefer a salad or some other Festival treat like snow taffy, sweet caribou from an ice cup, or mini donuts. Case in point: my t-shirt (at left). Ketchup may love potatoes, Mr. Ashum, but when this little piggy went to market you can bet he didn’t come home with pork roast! Hé Ho!