Outside Looking In dancers perform at the Sony Centre

Students from Wikwemikong pose for a group photo at the Sony Centre were they performed a choreographed dance through the Outside Looking In program.

TORONTO—A class of Wikwemikong High School students had the experience of a lifetime when they took to the stage of the Sony Centre in Toronto last month to perform as part of the Outside Looking In (OLI) program.

“We have 23 students in the program this year—18 dancers and four future leaders,” explained program teacher Valerie O’Leary. “The students joined four other dance groups from three other schools and put on an amazing show for over 900 Toronto area students and an evening performance for parents and friends. Our student leaders organized and coordinated the VIP section at the show.”

Ms. O’Leary told The Expositor that it was the sixth year for the program and that this year’s class had many new faces and included several Grade 7 students.

The OLI program was introduced to Wikwemikong High School in 2010 as an after school group, offering students the chance to learn hip hop and perform on a professional stage in Toronto in exchange for a commitment to attend every practice, maintain class attendance and work towards improving their grades.

A few years ago, the program was integrated into the school’s curriculum as a credited course, combining the dance element with classroom work focussed on personal reflection, goal setting, body image and anatomy.

The OLI dance program was founded in 2008 by Tracee Smith, an Ontario dancer and choreographer  who launched the program to give aboriginal youth the chance to express themselves, while helping them develop life skills through the discipline and hard work of dance.

The students complete in-class work with Ms. O’Leary and practice their routine, which was taught to the students by choreographer Alicia Williams who visits Wikwemikong every three weeks.

“It is an awesome program,” said Ms. O’Leary. “The students have a lot of fun and they came back from their Toronto trip very empowered and with a positive outlook.”

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Wikwemikong Outside Looking In students show off their moves on the stage of the Sony Centre last month.