Thunderbird American Indian Dancers 35th Annual Dance Concert and Pow-Wow
nytheatre.com review by Jane Titus
January 29, 2010
Friday night I saw an intriguing, moving performance of American Indian dance. The evening is structured in a very simple manner—dances are presented from across the country, and before each dance Louis Mofsie introduces the tribe and and the dance. He talks to us about the dance—what it expresses and how it was used in the particular tribe that developed it. And then he speaks to how the dances are used today. There is also a storyteller, Joe Cross, who comes out and tells us stories of the different tribes.
The show moves roughly across the country, starting with dances from this region and ending with dances from the Southwest. There is even a modern dance piece choreographed and performed by one of the members of the troop, Tom Pearson.
The whole evening is entertaining and moving. The format is forthright and direct. It is an evening of storytelling in speech and dance. In a way, we are seeing living history as these very movements and stories have been performed and told for hundreds of years in the same manner. This is a vibrant, dynamic telling of a people's history through movement, song, and story. There was a point where they asked us to get up and participate in their dance and ergo their history. It was really lovely.
In our Eurocentric culture, we have lost the physical connection to our past. We explore our roots through books and pictures and rarely have a chance to actually participate in our past. There is something so very powerful and moving about the integration of a culture into a dance form that awakens it for us today. Rarely do we see such integration of history and present day. Participating in an evening like this gives me hope for the future.
The group is unabashedly intercultural—there are American Indians of many tribes represented, just as there are dances from various tribes. Since we tend to think in separate groups, this was disconcerting at first, but then, as the evening progressed, the unity of cultures emerged out of the differences—the uniting of the many to bring to life the dances from across the country. This union began to show me the universality of the dance, and it was truly moving. It was a vision of a people that can come together in and with diversity.