Mankiller finds passion in dancing

BY STACIE BOSTON
Multimedia Reporter
09/21/2020 02:30 PM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Kassandra Mankiller trains during a ballet class at the Academy of Performing Arts in Tahlequah. Mankiller picked up ballet as a way to help her after her father died from cancer when she was 10 years old. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Earlier this year, Cherokee Nation citizen Kassandra Mankiller was accepted in the University of Oklahoma School of Dance Summer Intensive Program but because of the pandemic the program was cancelled. She said while the news was “heartbreaking” she was able to think about future opportunities. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – After her father died from cancer, then 10-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Kassandra Mankiller took to ballet as a way to help cope with her loss. And it was at On Stage Dance Studio where she found her passion for dancing.

“I just really didn’t have those aspirations that a kid should have when they’re that young, so I just started looking into some things that I could do to get me around and about,” the now 16-year-old Mankiller said. “So I started taking some dance classes and that really helped me.”

When first starting ballet, Mankiller said she was shy, but now credits dancing for her becoming more confident. “I didn’t really know how to express myself in such a way. And over the years I’ve really became more confident in myself as a person, especially outside the dance studio. I am still learning and growing as a dancer, and I look forward to keep on learning more.”

Mankiller now trains at the Academy of Performing Arts in Tahlequah. She said she continues to dance because it is “truly a gift.”

“Being able to dance is truly a gift, and I am very thankful that I have the opportunity to dance, especially in such an amazing studio,” she said. “Just meeting all of the wonderful dancers I’ve met in over the past years and just really finding a lot about myself while I’m dancing.”

In February, Mankiller was accepted in the University of Oklahoma School of Dance Summer Intensive Program, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the program was cancelled.

“When COVID happened they decided to cancel it and not have the intensive, which was very heartbreaking,” she said. “Since I’ve been dancing for such a short time it was very amazing to me that I got accepted, and I was really looking forward to dancing with them. And so it just really made me step back and think of the opportunities that I’ll be able to have, hopefully, coming up this year.”

Mankiller said being a Native American dancer is important to her because she does not see “much representation” for Natives in ballet. “In the past, we have had Maria Tallchief and those amazing ballerinas, and I really look up to them and they inspire me to just keep doing better and to make my ancestors and family proud.”

For others looking to express themselves through dance, Mankiller said they should “go for it.”

“Like I said before, it truly is a gift to dance, and it is very special and when you perform…all these emotions come over you and you just feel very inspired to keep on dancing,” she said. “And so I would say really try it out and express yourself.”

Click here to watch the video on our YouTube channel.
About the Author

stacie-boston@cherokee.org • 918-453-5269

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