16th Annual Coastal Dance Festival Celebrates Indigenous Cultural Exchange

The 16th Annual Coastal Dance festival returns March 2-5 at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. Hosted by Dancers of Damelahamid, an Indigenous dance company from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia that has been producing the festival annually since 2008, the Coastal Dance Festival celebrates the stories, songs, and dances of the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest coast alongside national and international guest artists. This year’s festival offers a combination of free, by donation, and ticketed events with performances by Indigenous artists from New Zealand and Australia, as well as Canada, North America, and the world.

Coastal Dance Festival - Dancers of Damelahamid by Chris Randle
Coastal Dance Festival – Dancers of Damelahamid by Chris Randle

As part of the festival’s Signature Evening Series, Dancers of Damelahamid will perform an exclusive excerpt from their latest full-length work Raven Mother, which is set to premiere in 2024. And, in celebration of reciprocity and cultural exchange between world Indigenous communities, the company will travel to New Zealand and perform at Kia Mau, a bi-annual Indigenous performance festival, in June.

“We are thrilled to welcome Indigenous artists from the Northwest Coast, across Canada, the U.S. and Australia and New Zealand to share their artistic practices and cultural knowledge,” said Festival Executive and Artistic Director Margaret Grenier in a statement. “Our programming provides a platform for cultural sharing to deepen our understanding of our festival artists’ histories and sources of inspiration, in celebration of the ongoing cultural revitalization and resiliency of so many communities around the world. We are honoured for the opportunity to receive this ancestral knowledge from artists close to home and globally, and, in turn, to share our own traditions of New Zealand later this year.”

Coastal Dance Festival - Wagana, courtesy of the artists
Coastal Dance Festival – Wagana, courtesy of the artists

This year’s festival will feature the debut of New Zealand Indigenous artist Rosie Te Rauawhea Belvie, as well as a performance from Australia’s Wagana Aboriginal Dancers, an intergenerational group who perform traditional and contemporary dances inspired by the Blue Mountains. Other draws include Paunnakuluit, a group featuring drum dancers and traditional Inuit throat singers, and Alberta-based Cree multidisciplinary artist and classically trained flutist Jessica McMann.

The Artist Sharing Series also returns this year with two free events. On Thursday, March 2, artists will discuss the connection of dance to ancestral lands. Friday, March 3, the discussion will focus on the connection of dance to ancestral language.

Coastal Dance Festival - Dancers of Damelahamid by Chris Randle
Coastal Dance Festival – Dancers of Damelahamid by Chris Randle

Founded on more than five decades of extensive work in song restoration, Dancers of Damelahamid’s current directive is to redefine their contemporary practice and to honour this history so that the dances will continue to be tangible and accessible for the next generation. The Coastal Dance Festival supports the professional and artistic growth of Indigenous artists, while inviting audiences to witness thriving and vibrant Indigenous artistic practices.


The 16th Annual Coastal Dance Festival runs from March 2 – 5 at Anvil Centre, 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster. Tickets and full event schedule are available here.


About Shannon Page 15 Articles
Shannon Page (they/she) is a writer, film critic, educator, and digital storyteller who has been teaching and writing about literature, movies, and popular culture for almost a decade. Their reviews, articles, essays, and short fiction have appeared in various online and print publications including WylieWrites.com, Filmotomy, Grain magazine, and Plenitude.