By Edward Kliszus
NEW YORK – It has been 49 Years of Preserving Native American Culture – Thunderbird American Dancers Pow Wow.
The Theater for the New City in New York’s East Village presented its 49th annual Thunderbird American Dancers Pow Wow and Dance Concert. For almost 50 years, the venue and the performers have played an essential role in preserving and continuing the vibrant cultural traditions of American Native People!
Throughout the performance, the troupe’s Director and Emcee, Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago), descriptively set the stage for each dance. An educational leader, Mofsie plays an integral part in the show through his ability to present an insightful, comprehensive view of native culture.
Mofsie provided detailed insights and historical references into each dance’s provenance, captivating and spurring the audience’s imagination. He was awarded a 2019 Bessie Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance. In 2017, he was honored, along with Garth Fagan and Martha Myers, with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Guild.
As the audience settled in, they were serenaded by exciting rhythmic and vocal offerings of the Heyna Second Son Singers (various tribes) that featured powerful drums and vocals in native languages.
A traditional Stomp Dance from the Iroquois opened the dance program. The Striking on Stick Dance, also from the Iroquois, followed by the traditional Smoke Dance performed by the ensemble’s women. Next was the Shawl Dance from the Oklahoma tribes.
The traditional Warrior Dance began with a “sneak up” pattern and led into the Arizona Hopi Rain or Prayer Dance. In the southwest states, praying through dance to the creator for rain was essential to nurture the crops they relied on for survival.
The Eagle Dance, depicting an eagle’s splendid plumage and splendor, signified the tribe’s thankfulness for impending rain and the eagle’s flight high before the rain.
The Winter or Buffalo Dance of the Hopi reminded us that buffalo were critical to preserving the lives of the Hopi tribes, who relied on the buffalo for food, clothing, and many valuable objects crafted from the animal’s bones.
At this point, audience members were invited to the stage to participate in a stomp dance. This lively, joyful dance featured a circle configuration with steps executed in both directions. Audience dancers laughed with delight as they mimicked the moves of the Native Dancers among them dressed in splendid regalia.
The action continued with the Sioux Jingle Dance and Grass Dance, where participants flattened grasses on the plains to stage an encampment before continuing their quest for buffalo. A highlight of the evening featured Marie Ponce, a celebrated Native American dance artist who performed the stunning and challenging Hoop Dance.
Tonight’s Native American dancers wore magnificent and intricately designed costumes celebrating their culture and traditions. Costumes displayed beautiful beaded detail, intricate embroidery, and colorful feathers representing their tribe’s beliefs and values.
Warriors danced in headdresses made from eagle feathers, with beaded belts, moccasins, and leggings. They carried various objects depending on their tribe’s traditions. Women dancers wore long, fringed dresses, often with beautiful, beaded designs. They, too, wore moccasins and often had feathers in their hair or on their costumes.
Fancy dancers wore elaborate, ornate outfits with brightly colored ribbons and intricate beadwork. Their costumes moved and flowed with the dancers, adding to the beauty and grace of their movements. The Fancy Dance is considered a way to honor the traditions of the Native American people and to express their deep connection to the earth, the natural world, and their ancestors.
Overall, the Native American dance costumes were a stunning display of cultural values, beliefs, and traditions. They were visually stunning and served as a connection to their past and a way to honor their heritage.
The troupe’s worldwide appearances benefit college scholarship funds for Native American students. The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Scholarship Fund receives its sole support from events like this concert (it receives no government or corporate contributions) and has bestowed over 350 scholarships. Theater for the New City has been presenting Pow Wows annually as a two-week event since 1976, with the box office donated to these scholarships.
The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers perform to help Native American students pay for college. Their concerts support the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Scholarship Fund. No government agency helps them, so each event must be successful. So far, they have helped more than 350 students go to college.
Since 1976, Theater for the New City has presented Pow-Wow concerts; all the money raised goes to scholarships. If you buy tickets, donate to the organization, or purchase beautiful Native jewelry and artwork in the theater lobby, you will help Native American students achieve their dreams and aspirations.
The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers presented an evening of informed, heartwarming, and inspired dance. Bravo!
Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue (at Tenth Street)
New York, NY 10003
TNC box office: 212-254-1109, www.theaterforthenewecity.net
Runtime is 90 min (all shows).
Singers and Dancers
Louis Mofsie, Alan Brown, Isabelle Cespedes, Matt C. Cross, Matoaka Little Eagle, Julian Gabopurel, Kitty Gabourel, Maire Poncé, Carlos Eagle Feather, Michael Taylor, Ciarán Tufford
Rob Mastrianni, Guitar
Dawn Hartop, Stage Manager
Alex Bartenieff, Lighting Design
Rob Mastrianni and Dawn Hartop, Lighting Operation
Solomon Mendelsohn, Company House Manager
Joy Felsenthal-Mendelsohn, Company Assistant
Louis Lofsie, Artistic Director
204 West Central Avenue
For Bookings, Workshops, Shows
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