When it comes to Metis jigging, it’s all about getting your steps in.Warren Ibister-Bear, who dances with the Creeland Dancers out of Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation, sometimes checks his FitBit fitness tracker’s step counter to see how many steps he can fit into one routine. It can be in the thousands.“It is a really good workout, especially if we’re dancing for a show that’s maybe 30-45 minutes long,” he said. “We try to break it up and try to have someone talk about the history and then we can catch our breath because at the end of it you’ll notice that we’re just exhausted.We have this running joke where we say we’re doing Metis aerobics.”
Members of the Creeland Dance Group practice at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge in Saskatoon.
Matt Smith /
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are now looking into just how good of a workout jigging is. Heather Foulds, an assistant professor with the College of Kinesiology, is conducting an assessment of the fitness potential of the Red River jig, a fast-stepping Metis dance.Foulds received a $120,000 research grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) for her three-year project, which is the first of its kind to link a traditional activity with possible improvements to heart health.Foulds, who is Metis, started training in Metis dancing a few years ago and, realizing how intense the workout was, thought it would be a good fit for her research. She’s working with Scott Duffee, a prize-winning jigging instructor and Métis cultural consultant.“As anyone who has danced this Red River jig knows, it’s quite an intense workout and quite physically demanding. It gets your heart rate up and gets you sweating,” she said.Foulds’ team is conducting a series of tests to look at the exercise intensity and training effectiveness of the dance and its impact on heart health, cardiovascular fitness and blood pressure. It will also compare the health benefits to other popular fitness regimes like running, aerobics and Zumba.The project has two parts. First, testing 24 experienced dancers in live performance and in an exercise laboratory. Then researchers will train 40 men and women how to do the dance for three months.The Red River jig has been a core part of Metis history and culture for hundreds of years. It’s influenced by the dance styles of the Métis’ Scottish, Irish, French and First Nations ancestors.“It’s more than just a physical activity, there’s a social component if you’re interacting with other people or challenging other people,” Foulds said. “And there’s a cultural component as well.”Kevin Seesequasis, the lead dancer of the Creeland Dancers said one of the things he loves most about being a part of the group is the community that comes with it.“It gets me moving, it gets me practicing a part of my culture and I’m able to share my talent with groups of people from all over. It’s a bit of an act of reconciliation being able to practice and promote our culture. So there’s a lot of reasons why I jig.”Ibister-Bear said he’s looking forward to seeing the results of the study.“It will be good to see and potentially look at some of the results and the physical impacts that it has,” he said. “We already know the mental the psychological impacts that it has on the dancers because we leave feeling rejuvenated and happy.”email@example.com