Keystrokes and Dance Beats: Pat Alec Connects Communities and Their Stories
With keystrokes and dance beats, Pat Alec has found his own way to tell his stories. His ancestral name is Nk’yap’xn, and he is a member of the Stl'atl'imx nation out of Lillooet, BC. Currently living in Victoria, he moved from Vancouver last year to take a job with the First Peoples' Cultural Council. He works part time with a program called First Voices developing technology to help Indigenous communities revitalize their languages, arts and cultures.
While his office is based in Victoria, his team works with all 204 indigenous communities in BC, doing community engagement and attending events. “It's nice to interact or engage with the community and talk to them about what kind of goals and challenges they face,” he said. Outside of work, Alec dances.
Inspired by a conference in Edmonton called the Dreamcatcher conference, Alec started dancing at 12 years old. The amazing dancers he saw influenced him to get into breakdancing, something he had never seen in his community. He practiced with his cousin and other youth joined them. Word spread and their crew started getting invited to do shows in schools and communities in their territory.
When he moved to Vancouver in grade 10 he danced less and did more sports. He faced racism and found the transition tough. Recently, Alec has gotten back into dance. “Because dance is an art form, it's like a medicine. It really helped me express myself because I wasn't a very social person, and dance was the way I communicated to the world. It was my way of expressing myself and kind of giving me that channel to do that,” he shared.
Dancing gave Alec confidence which he is eager to share with today’s youth. “What I like to do now is I like to work with youth doing shows. I really try to encourage or inspire the youth to possibly use hip hop as the platform to express themselves,” he elaborated.
“That's what hip hop and breaking is, you want to bring your own story into your dance. Whether it's what you were influenced by or your culture.”
In terms of his own story, after Alec moved to Vancouver and then North Vancouver, he went to Capilano University. At first, Alec wanted to get into Human Kinetics to get into sports medicine, but didn't have the grades for it. He completed an Interactive Design diploma program including multimedia, graphic design, video, web design, and programming.
“Business is a lot about being able to talk to people and socialize. That was one of the things I really had to force myself to do.”
“I had to really step outside of my comfort zone to keep going in the program. I wasn't a very social person, but I had to really step outside my comfort zone and stay focused. It was a pretty challenging program, but it definitely paid off in the end to stick to it,” he recalled. Alec branched out specialized in web design and development. For the past 10 years he has been working in communications with mostly Indigenous communities.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And then as I started learning more and more it helped mold or shaped me into what I wanted to do.”
When asked for his advice for youth considering leaving their home communities for work or school, he explained, “As Indigenous people, we're very close to our family members… It's not easy, but it's a sacrifice you'll have to make if you want to go to school or sports. Your family's always going to be there. They're going to be supporting you. You can always go home and visit, but as Indigenous people, we walk in two different worlds, right? It's just learning to find the balance in the mix. It's definitely something that I encourage youth to not to give up so easily or to find a way to keep grounding yourself, if you're ever feeling lost or you feel like you want to give up.” He was driven by sports and was able to attend sweat lodge ceremonies in the city to help keep him grounded.
That connection to family he described and not being able to visit during times of restriction is something that made the pandemic challenging for Alec. He coped by hiking, running and using technology to stay connected. He had already been working from home for a decade so that was less of an adjustment. He’s thankful his home community has been spared from the virus so far and geography has protected them.
Through dance and technology, Pat Alec has found ways to share stories and connect with people. Breakdancing is a language he used to communicate and now he helps Indigenous communities preserve and share their language so they can share their stories too. With keystrokes and dance beats, Pat Alec broke from what was familiar in his small town and found a way to unite people all over the province.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
April 2022 Updates: Pat has transitioned from his position at the FPCC and is now focusing on stunts for films and freelance web and graphic design!
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.