Fancy Shawl Dancer | Ainslee Pictou

Fancy Shawl Dancer | Ainslee Pictou

In a human sea of black and white power suits and business suits stood a lone butterfly of colour. A young one at that. I met Ainslee Pictou at the Inaugural Atlantic Economic Forum (see my last post about that HERE).

The AEF was a well heeled gala. Industry titans, bilionaires, politicians, policy leaders.. all adults. There was one table of university students, but aside from that, this was a formal grown-up event. I had already photographed the red-carpet arival of Justin Trudeau and Brian Mulroney and was circulating around the outside of the gala, looking for photograph opportunities.

There she was. Ainslee stood against the wall quietly with her parents. Brightly dressed in a traditional Fancy Shawl dress of her Mi’kmaq ancestors. I was instantly captivated. I knew we had to get together at another time in the near future for portraits.

Ainslee Pictou is 15 years old and from Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation – she dances The Women’s Fancy Shawl. The Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance represents the opening of a cocoon when the butterfly emerges. The shawl is usually the most extravagant piece. The fringed shawls are colorful and flashy, often featuring embroidery or ribbon work. The fringe on the shawl have a movement that coincides with the dancer.

She first started dancing 5 years ago from her aunt bringing her to powwows and then she got interested and wanted to try. Her and her aunt (Angela Lafford) came together and help make her regalia’s, they are all handmade by them. Ainslee was also a former highland dancer before starting to fancy shawl dance so it was very natural for her to teach herself steps and movements for this type of dancing.

Here are a few images – first of Ainslee’s Dance at the AEF, and then the portraits we created together. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did creating them.

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