Dancing for Healing

by Michelle Valberg

Dancing for Healing

Makhena was a support worker at a senior’s residence and when she wasn’t on duty, she spent
her time volunteering; connecting with seniors who were lonely and not able to have visitors.
Makhena moved into the senior’s home at the beginning of the Pandemic because her mom has
an auto-immune disease and was at risk with Makhena going back and forth to work. While
volunteering, Makhena delighted the residents with her healing gift of dance.
Traditional hoop dancing is a form of storytelling; Indigenous dancers like Makhena use hoop
dancing to create shapes and symbols, as they move to music. It’s an important element in
healing ceremonies, evoking emotion that acts as medicine for the body, mind, and soul.
Hoop dancing has been practiced by First Nations people for centuries. An Anishinaabe folktale
says that there was once a boy who didn’t like to hunt or fish, so he spent hours watching
animals in the wild. Eventually, the boy started mimicking the animals’ movements, spinning
like an eagle and fluttering like a butterfly. He added the hoops and created a dance that he
shared with others.
Makhena says, "The thing I find fascinating about dance is the medicine within the dance. It’s
emotional, spiritual, mental and even physical medicine.” Not long after my first photo shoot with this beautiful young woman, I invited her to my studio so we could shoot a portrait portfolio for her since one of her videos went viral and she is now in high demand for performances. I had an idea of how I wanted the shoot to go but as I always do, I trusted my instincts, remained open to possibility, and allowed the session to evolve beyond any expectation.

For the session, I collaborated with world class make-up artist/stylist Leslie Anne Barrett, who
transformed Makhena’s looks so beautifully, bringing limitless possibilities into play. Working
with gifted artists like Leslie Anne is not only a brilliant partnership, it’s a critical factor in the
success of any studio photo shoot. We played Makhena’s favorite music and our combined
artistic energy was so powerful, I’m sure people could feel it in the streets, well beyond the

When the ISO capabilities within DSLRs improved, I moved away from traditional studio flash
and into the world of continuous lighting. My go-to continuous lights are three StellaPro CLx10s. I find I create with more intention as I know exactly how my light is going to play off
my subject. I can literally see what I’m getting and that ignites a lot of confidence during the shoot. Using StellaPro lights have brightened my world (pun intended) and transformed the way
I photograph.
Using natural light, combined with three StellaPro CLx10 lights, I don’t have to wait for the flash to recycle, which means less lost images and more moments to capture. We’ve all had clients who blink, right? The continuous light combined with my Nikon mirrorless camera and
silent shutter allows me to photograph the “blinkers” without them anticipating the flash and my hit rate has greatly improved.
The StellaPro CLx10 lights are lightweight, durable, easily transportable, battery powered and waterproof, which means more flexibility, ultimately translating into more photographic opportunities. They are an enormous convenience when transporting to a shoot and allow me to
move about freely during the photo session. Plus, the intensity of the CLx10s varies all the way up to a staggering 10,000 lumens which is great for low light situations. They offer more opportunity to try different angles and vantage points and to think in ways I never did with traditional flash. It’s breakthroughs like this that still make me feel excited about shooting after three decades as a professional photographer. If you haven’t tried continuous lights, I highly recommend the StellaPro light system; I’m sure you will be equally impressed.
I’ll close with a few words from the young old soul Makhena, whose wisdom defies her age but not her experience:
"It's a true honor to be able to use my medicine to heal. In the colonized society that we live in
today, we focus so much on the physical aspect of health; we forget to see the human being as a complete being. Our medicine wheel reminds us that to be healthy, we need to be balanced."

"The StellaPro CLx10 lights are lightweight, durable, easily transportable, battery powered and waterproof, which means more flexibility, ultimately translating into more photographic opportunities."

- Michelle Valberg

About Michelle Valberg

Michelle is a Nikon Ambassador, a StellaPro Champion of Light and Canadian wildlife and
portrait photographer who has been telling stories with her camera for more than 30 years.
She has traveled to all continents in search of adventure and photographic opportunities but
is particularly celebrated for her passion for Canada and the Arctic. Her images appear on
magazine covers, in numerous publications, exhibitions, and embassies worldwide. Her
iconic images appear on a Royal Canadian Mint coin and on Canada Post stamps.
In 2009, she founded Project North, a not-for-profit organization committed to delivering
education and sport-based opportunities to youth in Canada’s Arctic. Since its inception,
$1,000,000 in new sports equipment has been delivered to more than 30 northern
communities in Canada.

Using natural light, combined with three StellaPro CLx10 lights, I don’t have to wait for the flash to recycle, which means less lost images and more moments to capture.

Michelle Valberg

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