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Ep. 07:

Embracing Change While Keeping the Past Alive with

Robbert-Jan Brems and Leslie Kachena McCue

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Embracing Change While Keeping the Past Alive With Robbert-Jan Brems and Leslie Kachina Mccue.

Episode 07: Show Notes.

Today’s guests are breakdancer and video game designer Robbert-Jan Brems and First Nations advocate, cultural professional and dancer Leslie Kachina Mccue. Robbert works at Unity Technologies in visual solutions and is also a tech advisor at Danse Bloom. Leslie is a traditional dancer, indigenous resource knowledge teacher, and coordinator for the Royal Ontario Museum Youth Cabinet. We hear from Robbert how breakdancing taught him about passion and creativity, and how these lessons went a long way in showing him he could learn anything he wanted. He went from being bad at gaming to a game designer because of it. Leslie’s life ambition is to use the land as a dramaturgical device and leverage theatre, education, and dance to preserve her culture and bring justice to her people by telling their story. Our guests come from very different backgrounds but we cover some exciting overlaps today. We talk about how humility and togetherness are both major factors in their work. You’ll hear about how both Robbert and Leslie are bringing people in their community together through dance. Leslie shares some of her current projects such as the work she is doing to conscientize people about the suppressed story of residential schools in Canada. Of course, we also get into the intersections of dance with technology in both of our guests' work and hear about its application in transforming body perceptions as well as bringing awareness to uncomfortable issues. In addition, we look at technology and dance from the perspective of privacy, representation, and exploitation. Join us for a fascinating journey into ideas of community, preservation, and creativity at the intersection of dance and technology from two unique voices.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Details about Leslie: her troupe ‘Odawa Wingash’, and cultural connection to dance.

  • What influences Powwow dance movements: feelings, nature and different animals.

  • The dances Leslie and her team do: ‘Women’s Traditional’, ‘Prairie Chicken’, and ‘Fancy’.

  • How Robbert approaches problem solving at the intersection of front and back end in tech.

  • What Leslie does to integrate indigenous folks into theater through IndigenizeUs.

  • How Leslie has imbibed the energy at The Mush Hole in preparation for a performance.

  • Our guests’ commonalities regarding humility, vulnerability and community learning.

  • The place of tech and land in Leslie’s work: Skype rehearsals, VR, AI, and Hack the ROM.

  • Robbert’s tech journey: breakdancing, PC games, and seeing how tech can help people.

  • How Robbert stands out in the tech industry by bringing people together through dance.

  • People’s responses to Leslie’s dances and how they get reminded of their homes.

  • Pressures Leslie feels to keep her culture alive through dance and increasingly, recordings.

  • How Powwow styles have grown less site-specific due to revival efforts post unbanning.

  • What a tech-driven future might bring regarding the idea of tech as a double-edged sword.

  • Worries Leslie has about how recordings of her people’s dances will be used in the future.

  • How Leslie’s friend combined tech with dance in an outfit to protest injustice.

  • Dangers around privacy, consent, and how at risk people are of being hacked.

  • What technology has enabled as far as understanding and monitoring the body.

  • Hopes for the acceptance of more body types in the future.

  • Dreams that adaptability and modularity will become part of how the body is viewed in future.

  • Cultural assertion, constraints, and how bodies will interact after VR.

  • Collaboration skills, community, and how dance might positively affect the future.

  • Leslie and Robbert’s goals for the future: to start an art centre and use tech to change lives.


“If I cannot make myself vulnerable I cannot receive new things.” — Robbert-Jan Brems [0:16:35]

“We have a dance called The Round Dance where we dance in a circle, and people say that they get a sense of community or family, and it reminds them of back home.” — @itsMcCue [0:25:56]

“Technology has changed the relationship that I have with my own body. It makes me more aware of the performances and opportunities that I take, knowing that my image may be misused out of context.” — @itsMcCue [0:40:44]

“I want to help people to deal with change or help introduce change into their lives, and I feel everything I learned from dancing and making video games has led me to successfully support people with those challenges. ” — Robbert-Jan Brems [0:50:50]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

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