Yvonne Chartrand is a contemporary choreographer and dancer as well as a national award-winning master Métis jigger. Her ancestors come from the Métis community of St. Laurent, Manitoba.
She began performing with a traditional Métis dance group called The Gabriel Dumont Dancers in Winnipeg in 1986. She started work in contemporary dance in the same year, while attending the University of Manitoba Fine Arts Program. She has since trained in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, and Banff. She graduated from the Main Dance Place apprenticeship program in Vancouver in 1998, where she apprenticed with the Karen Jamieson Dance Company. She has worked with choreographers Paula Ross, Katherine Labelle, Ania Storoscszuk Georgina Martinez, Helen Walkley, Michelle Olson and Robin Poitras. She is a co-founder of Raven Spirit Dance Company. Yvonne attended the Aboriginal Dance Project at The Banff Centre in 2001, 2002, and 2010. She trained with Margo Kane’s Full Circle Ensemble, which produced The River Home for the Talking Stick Festival in 2005.
Yvonne is the Artistic Director of V’ni Dansi (founded in 2000 with Mariko Kage), whose name translates as “Come and Dance” in Michif. Dancers perform traditional Métis dance under the name of the Louis Riel Métis Dancers and contemporary dance works as V'ni Dansi. The Louis Riel Métis Dancers have had the pleasure of performing for events locally and nationally and internationally such as the Vancouver International Children's Festival, Talking Stick Festival, Back to Batoche Days Festival, the International Métis Festival and The Debajehmujig Theatre.
In 1999, with the assistance of a First People's Cultural Foundation grant, Yvonne created Marguerite, a contemporary dance solo that honours Métis womens lives during the resistances through an exploration of the life of Marguerite Monet dit Bellemeur, wife of the great Métis leader Louis Riel. Yvonne's solo contemporary dance production Stories from St. Laurent draws on stories gathered from Elders in her ancestral home of St. Laurent, Manitoba. It premiered in Vancouver in April 2009 at The Firehall Arts Centre and toured to Saskatchewan. In 2003, V’ni Dansi received its first Canada Council production grant, for collaboration with Butoh master Yukio Waguri. The company produced A Poet And Prophet, inspired by the poetry and visions of Louis Riel. In 2004, Yvonne mentored with Maria Campbell to create Gabriel’s Crossing. It was remounted as an Artist and Community Collaboration where Yvonne worked with six youth and toured the piece throughout BC for ArtStarts in Schools. The company then collaborated with Maria as writer and director for a dance-theatre production called The Crossing (a dance trilogy inspired by these earlier works) that toured to Saskatoon and celebrated the company’s First Annual Louis Riel Day Celebration in Vancouver in 2006. The Crossing inspired an Artist and Community Collaboration with Maria Campbell and Fireweed Productions in Saskatoon, which included performances in July 2007 and 2008 at the Batoche National Historical Site of Canada. The 2008 Batoche project received an Award for Creative Excellence from Tourism Saskatchewan. Her work Cooking It Up Métis, a dance-theatre piece inspired by the First Nations and European ancestry of the Métis, where four young dancers at Back to Batoche Days campsite share stories and dances. They recently toured throughout BC and are planning another school tour in the fall of 2016.
Yvonne was awarded Women’s First Place for The Canadian Traditional Red River Jigging Championship, at the John Arcand Fiddle Fest from 2005-2007, and Overall Grand Champion for 2007 at Windy Acres Ranch outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She now teaches and judges at the Fiddle Fest. In 2005 she received Women’s First in the Western Canadian Métis Red River Jig Championship for Métis Fest by The Edmonton Métis Cultural Dance Society. She also received First place for Most Traditional Dancer at Back to Batoche Days 2007.
Yvonne is on the board of directors and organizing committee for the Métis section of the Pacific West Performing Arts Festival. She was awarded the Victor Martin Lynch-Staunton Award in 2011 from The Canada Council for The Arts.
Career Highlights Include