May/June 1988 Up Here Magazine by Juliet Pin
Imagine the combo of belly dancing and museum work! Lynette Harper has found the link.
Born in Vancouver of Lebanese parents, belly dancing just seemed to come naturally. Her list of dance performances is impressive. From the Vancouver Sea Festival and Robson Square
Plaza to many theatre performances, Lynette has twisted and swayed her way into the Middle Eastern Dance group of Vancouver.
When she moved north three years ago she continued performing, and has awed many a crowd at the Charity Ball, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre and special performances in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, ‘I’m a performer at heart, and dancing is a way of expressing my joy,” she says. “It runs in the family.”
Now curator of education and professional programs at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, she explains that the same creativity is useful in her work. As teacher and museum curator she believes she can help people find their own inner spark. Within the museum environment, Lynette says, people are inspired by seeing the results of other people’s creativity. She describes a museum as a “special place where people can develop understanding and respect for one another, through displays which show the different ways in which we see the world.”
Her vivaciousness, enthusiasm and zaniness is contagious, spreading joy and humor among her co-workers. “People sometimes don’t take me seriously,” admits Lynette, “but that’s changing, and I’m even called upon to head up international conferences and chair meetings.”
Her zaniness is a tool to help keep a perspective on what she is doing. “We take ourselves too seriously”, she says. Her humor has been known to ease tension at many a meeting.
Lynette has gained great respect in her field through her strong professional commitment. After just a short time in Yellowknife, she was thrown into the role of acting director of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Recalling the challenging seven month experience she praises the full support of her staff.
When a new director was named, she turned her energies to the Discovery Gallery which opened in June last year. A family area (where the signs read “please touch”) offers a wardrobe of costumes, rocks and bones to identify, a fur closet, and much more. Though she says she can be frustrated by the time it takes to develop exhibitions, she can see a slow and steady progress in the gallery. Lynette hopes to extend the opportunities for similar museum programs across the Territories. She says it’s a matter of staff and more involvement from the communities themselves. Professionally, Lynette brings a broad view of the world and her own special spark to all her activities.
After only three years in the North, Lynette says her attitudes are changing. At first, she “tried everything” because it was new and exciting, but gradually the natural rhythms took over. “I can see how one can get hooked on the North,” she grins.
Her fiance, Bruce Finlayson, shares her interest in the absurd and is also a great performer. During Expo he entertained waiting crowds outside the NWT pavilion. He is often seen on the stage at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre amusing both adults and children.
Both Lynette and Bruce have made a valuable contribution to the theatre arts scene in Yellowknife.
When we asked her what it’s like to belly dance for people she’ll be discussing job tactics with the next day, she says she sees her dance as a different aspect of herself. “It is performance oriented, just as someone else may play hockey or sing,” she explains, “and dance is a nice way of relating to people.” When she did combine the two on the occasion of the farewell party for the director of the museum, the entire staff was thrilled.
New exhibitions are an ongoing challenge for Lynette at the museum. She’s taking a few weeks off this summer to get married. And there’s another dance performance coming up at Vancouver’s Sea Festival. There’s even the prospect of forming a dance group in Yellowknife. . .
You can be sure that there will be a spark of creativity in everything Lynette tackles.