Dance has been in her blood since the day she was born — it has always been a part of who she is.
The movements, the culture, the songs have always been a huge part of Tobie Wick, who is one of those Rupertites who left for a long period of time but returned years later for all the benefits Prince Rupert has to offer.
Wick, who is Gitxsan on her grandfather’s side and Cree on her grandmother’s side, started dancing as soon as she could walk.
“It does become a part of you, who you are, and it’s ingrained in you. You feel that integrity of your culture and strength that you have,” Wick said.
Dance connected Wick with her First Nations people, but also with her ancestors. Everytime she dances with her family, she realizes it’s not just them on stage but their ancestors are with them with everything they have passed through.
“Everytime I get to dance with my family, I just feel so strong. The main thing is supporting each other on stage and being there,” she said.
Wick has grown up dancing with her family and it’s something she has never lost. Her grandparents had a lot to do with the revival of First Nations culture in the Prince Rupert area and her great-grandmother did a lot of work to restore and keep the culture.
Her grandparents started an indigenous dance company called Dancers of Damelahamid in the 1960s out of an urgency to ensure that the knowledge of their ancestors was not lost. Since then, the society has created a place for the dances to survive through a new role: dance as a performance for public audiences.
When she moved to Vancouver at age 21 to pursue schooling, Wick’s aunt, Margaret Grenier, started the company again under Wick’s grandparents influence. She soon became a big part of the company, as a lead dancer and choreographer as well as the arts administrative assistant. Through that company, they toured New Zealand, Australia, Peru and eastern Canada, but perhaps the biggest legacy was starting up the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival.
“We just celebrated the 10th year and it was carrying on what my grandparents started here years ago. It’s really great to bring the communities together and amazing to see the support that everyone has for each other,” Wick said.
The festival is a celebration of the songs, stories and dances of the indigenous people of the northwest coast of North America.
It was throughout this time as a professional dancer that Wick first encountered yoga, and used it to support her dance career.
“Having yoga with dance was a huge part to support my dance career, to keep me strong. Dancing is hard on your body. I always make sure to keep keep my practice strong now, so that when I do perform, I feel strong,” Wick said.
She and her partner, Dan Hendrickson, moved back to Prince Rupert approximately four-and-a-half years ago, because they wanted to raise their daughter, Violet, in a good community. It wasn’t long after the move that she opened Zikhara Yoga, together with Samantha Kasdorf. The two met while Wick was doing her yoga training and discussed how they wanted to create a space where people could come in and practice anytime they wanted as opposed to pre-registration.
“I always feel you should do something you’re passionate about. Yoga has always been my second passion,” Wick said.
She says she is very happy about where she has ended up, although dance isn’t as big a part as it was when she lived in Vancouver. However, She still travels to Vancouver and dances when she can.
“Now that I’m here without dance, my focus is yoga. It’s not been the easiest to be away so that’s why I’m glad I do have yoga because it was a big part of my life to be doing it more often,” she said.
Last year, she danced with her family at the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa and she recently went to the Lower Mainland for the 10-year anniversary of the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival.
Her life is different now, but she’s thankful she has had the opportunity to mix two passions her entire life. Through it all, the biggest lesson she has learned is to be strong in who she is and know her identity.
“It gives you the feeling of strength and knowing who you are. That’s very important as you move through life to feel that.”