Far too often, an indigenous community makes the news because it’s dealing with a suicide epidemic. Cross Lake, Manitoba is one such community. In 2016 there were 140 suicide attempts in Cross Lake within a two week period. Six people were successful. Those staggering numbers are even more devastating when you consider that the population of Cross Lake is about 5,000 people total. Afterwards, the community was left to try to pick up the pieces.
One way through the pain was dance. The Twilight Dancers are a dance troupe from Cross Lake, and this documentary short follows its members as they compete in the 2017 Cross Lake Trappers Festival. The closeness of the community is obvious from the start. Every one of these young people has been affected by last year’s suicides, in one way or another. Bullying and social media are frequently cited as the causes, to which I am sure we can all relate.
Dancing is not an obvious solution to this type of crisis on reserve, particularly square dancing (which, as several of the kids point out, came from white people). But it clearly works. These dancers are survivors, they are talented, they are dedicated, and they are spreading joy to their audience as they chase a championship. Their positivity through tragedy is inspiring.
The Twilight Dancers show us what it means to never give up, and I am glad to have heard their story.