Above: The Dakhká Khwaán Dancers. Photo courtesy Simon Ager

The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers from Whitehorse, Yukon, are the lead dance group at this month’s Celebration in Juneau, the region’s largest Alaska Native gathering. It’s the first time in the event’s 42-year history that the lead dancers hail from outside of southeast Alaska.

“We are the first Interior Tlingit group to be given the honor,” says Marilyn Jensen-Yadułtin, the founder and leader of the group since 2007. “We are very humbled, honored, and excited.”

As lead dancers, they will sing and drum as dozens of groups file onstage during Celebration’s opening and closing events. Jensen-Yadułtin says it takes “tremendous endurance,” as each performance requires three hours of non-stop singing and dancing. The group has practiced for months and will debut new regalia, songs, and masks.

First formed in Carcross, Yukon, the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers have grown from six to 30 members ranging from children to Elders. They have performed in New Zealand, Taiwan, the U.S., and at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In 2018, their album Deconstruct/Reconstruct received an Indigenous Music Award nomination.

“We would like to say thank you so much to all of the people who support us,” says Jensen-Yadułtin.


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