A local competitive powwow dancer is taking powwow arbours by storm, this year. Patrick Mitsuing is a fancy dancer, competing at powwows from Alberta to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“The powwow in Albuquerque is the largest one held every year. That’s where the best dancers gather to compete against each other,” said Mitsuing. “I just happened to place fourth at this year’s celebration.”
Mitsuing plans on moving forward with the momentum his recent success has created this coming powwow season, and intends to do a circuit of powwows across Western Canada. This entails participating in events large and small.
“You sign up for them – they are open competitions for anyone who wants to compete,” said Mitsuing. “Throughout the year, there are smaller ones that are not as competitive, but once you get to the larger sized powwows, you’re going to start to see the level of competition rise, because you’re meting people from different tribes, basically, all over North America.”
Mitsuing – originally from Loon Lake, Saskatchewan – moved to Sylvan Lake seven years ago, and started dancing at the age of 13.
“It’s been 18 years, now. I got introduced to it through family members who were dancing, and it kind of took off from there,” said Mitsuing.
Mitsuing described what ended up drawing him to fancy dancing, noting that it was the fact that fancy dancing is a physically demanding form of dance. Aside from the dancing itself requiring a great deal of energy, participants are expected to wear regalia – the weight of the regalia adds to the challenge. Mitsuing was certain he had an affinity for it from the get-go, with an athletic background in track and field, having competed in provincial and national competitions when he was younger.
“I just liked the competitive nature of [fancy dancing], so I got into it,” he said. “Fancy dancing is really fast and challenging to your body. I thought I would fit really well, doing it.”
To give people who aren’t familiar with fancy dancing a frame of reference, Mitsuing described the style as “like doing a 400 or 800-metre sprint, carrying about 20 pounds worth of stuff.”
“It’s challenging, and you’ve got to really prepare yourself for it,” he said. “The way I learned was basically looking to friends and family who were doing already – they gave me the coaching I needed to start off. I looked into it, and watched other champion dancers, to see what they were doing.”
Mitsuing noted that he made an effort to mimic what kinds of things he saw champion dancers do. He added that he also looked at different genres of dance to incorporate their movements into his own style.
“I was looking at tap dancing, gymnastics, ballet and break dancing – and I would take anything that looked cool, and I would do it myself,” he said.
Mitsuing is ready for the coming powwow season, and has an overarching goal of getting to the second World Championship event in Las Vegas, this coming November. Last year, he won third place, dancing in Last Vegas – this year, he hopes to exceed his past accomplishments.
Mitsuing dances in competition with over 50 dancers in his particular style, and at events the size of the World Championship in Las Vegas, there can be as many 3,000 dancers, in all categories, showing up for the event.
“Albuquerque is the kickoff of the year before powwow season really starts,” Mitsuing said. “Now that spring and summer are rolling in, there’s going to be a powwow every weekend and week, so there’s not going to be too many breaks. I’m hoping I can do a little better this year – but as long as I’m healthy and can participate in it, I’m always happy.”
Mitsuing says he is ready for what will amount to a full-time dance circuit, and compares it to the rodeo circuit, since it will keep him on the road just as much as any cowboy, this season.
“One weekend, we’ll be in Manitoba, the next week, we’ll be in B.C., and then the next weekend after that, we’ll be in Saskatchewan,” said Mitsuing. “The circuit runs all through Western Canada, and is even starting to pick up in Eastern Canada – it’ll be all over the States, too, when in full swing.”