Jacob Pratt on the Rise: Dancer Turns Entrepreneur and Youth Advocate
Indian Country Today
Jacob Pratt was recently seen on this site — actually, he wasn't so much "seen" as helping you, the viewer, to see — in a clip titled "Grand Entry at a Pow Wow from a Dancer's Point of View." That video, though, is really just a sidenote to the main plotline of Pratt's story, that of a dancer who has emerged as an entrepreneur and youth advocate. Inspired by a photo of Pratt that became a Facebook phenomenon (it is above, in a cropped version), ICTMN contacted Regina, Saskatchewan-based Pratt to get the scoop on his various pursuits.
Tell us about your performance company, Wambdi Dance — when did it get its start, and what is its mission?
I started Wambdi in February of 2012 and we have been growing ever since. Our mission is to provide high quality Native performance and event services. We are also committed to helping Native Youth realize their own potential and supporting them in their journey to success.
What is your role as creative director?
I’m responsible for the overall company operation. In short my job is to ensure the company is operating properly, continues to grow, develop strategic plans, develop new and unique products and services, and much more. Wambdi Dance relies on my vision and ability to direct the company in the right direction. It is a lot of work and pressure but I really do love my job.
Wambdi has had some pretty high-profile gigs. What were the highlights so far?
Yes, we have been lucky enough to get some performances that we are very proud of. We performed for the Royal Visit in 2012 when Prince Charles came to the First Nations University of Canada. To us this was an opportunity to honor our treaties because in Canada our treaties we made with the crown. In October of 2012 I did a hoop dance performance at the Smithsonian Museum of the North American Indian in New York city for the opening of a new exhibit called The Circle of Dance. One of our best and most talked about performances was for the 2013 Indspire Awards opening performance. This was a huge performance that we spent months planning and weeks rehearsing. I choreographed it for 16 dancers including four grass dancers, four men's fancy, three women's fancy, one hoop dancer, three breakdancers and one tiny tot dancer. It ended up being the highlight of the show and a number of people told us later that it was the best performance they had ever seen. This performance showed our ability to not only handle large professional performances as well as community-based ones. These are only a few examples of our larger performances, however, some of our favorites events are things like the culture camps we have done with Native youth. We all have a passion for giving back to our communities.
You recently did a hoop-dancing themed photo shoot with Michael Dubois, and the image of proved extremely popular — can you tell us about that?
Michael Dubois is a brilliant photographer and we have been friends for a while. He came to me with this concept of an image of a hoop dancer that is basically floating in the air and I was immediately interested. It was a lot of work and the day before there was snow on the ground so it wasn’t the warmest photo shoot. We were both very happy with the shots we got and Mike had the first images ready later that day. He posted them on Facebook and they went viral immediately. I think we were both surprised with the response that we saw and definitely inspired by it. From the start people started asking if they could get prints so we decided to make them available at the Wambdi.com store. They are a special order item, available in two sizes, and extremely high quality that can be hung on the wall. As an added benefit not only are we donating to the Wambdi Youth for the Arts but Michael has also committed to donating his commission as well. So 25% of our profits go to Native Youth.
In the video about the sale of the prints, you are wearing the Wambdi t-shirt — can you tell us about that product?
Our Wambdi t-shirts were the first of our products that we started selling on our website but definitely not the last. On the front of them is our logo and on the back is our slogan, “Come Fly with the Wambdi.” With the introduction of our t-shirt came the introduction of our Wambdi Youth for the Arts program. With the sales of the t-shirt and every product we sell we donate a percentage of our profits to youth. With the money we raise we will help youth who have a passion for the arts by purchasing them regalia, instruments, lessons or whatever they need to become successful artists. This is very important to us as a company because there are so many talented Native youth out there. We want to make more money for our company but also we want to raise more money for youth.
All this makes you a busy man — you're still in college pursuing a degree, correct?
Yes with everything I’m extremely busy and yes I’m still in university. I am nearly done with less then a year left. I’m studying business with a major in entrepreneurship. My education has taught me how to critically analyze my company so I can figure out how to strategically grow. Also running my own company has made it possible for me to relate to many of the things that I’m learning in school. Rather then everything just being theoretical I am able to apply what I learn to the company right away. Although there are benefits to running a company and going to school at the same time it is very difficult. The balance between work, school, and having a personal life is not always easy.