Watch This Indigenous Grass Dancer at the Heart of the City Fest This Week

Larissa Healey is now used to donning the 20-pound-plus regalia worn when grass dancing, but the two-spirit Anishinaabe artist didn’t grow up celebrating Indigenous arts and culture. Healey was a Sixties Scoop baby, stolen from their family and adopted out in the Canadian government’s effort to erase their people. Through powwows at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre and meeting other Indigenous folks in the arts, Healey began to reconnect with their heritage in adulthood. “It’s been awesome, brutal work—the healing process is hardcore,” says Healey. “But your insight and foresight become farther when you deal with your trauma.” As a grass dancer, Healey’s responsibility is to bless the ground through movement: their flexibility and fluidity mimics the way tall grass moves in the wind.

Credit: David Cooper

When Larissa Healey received compensation from the government as part of the Sixties Scoop settlement, they spread it among the community, who in turn handmade Healey’s regalia.

It’s a complex and meaningful art, but one that the dancer’s background in martial arts well-prepared them for. Healey grew up practicing kung fu, kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu. That, in addition to their work in sculpture and graffiti (which has been exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Bill Reid Gallery and National Gallery of Canada), informs the discipline and passion that makes their dancing so compelling. “When you hit that happy spot with that drumbeat, your ancestors are there,” says Healey. “They will put their hands on your elbows, and help carry you. I am so proud to be able to hold that space.” Healey will be performing at the opening of the DTES Heart of the City Festival on October 27—more info here.

READ MORE: 5 Things to Do in Vancouver This Week (October 25-31)