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TNC Presents Thunderbird American Indian Dancers' 38th Annual Dance Concert and Pow-Wow, 1/25-2/3

Related: Theater for the New City, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, Pow-Wow

The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers are the oldest resident Native American dance company in New York. The troupe was founded in Brooklyn in 1963 by a group of ten Native American men and women, all New Yorkers, who were descended from Mohawk, Hopi, Winnebago and San Blas tribes. Prominent among the founders were Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago) and his sister, Josephine Mofsie (deceased), Rosemary Richmond (Mohawk), Muriel Miguel (Cuna/Rapahannock) and Jack Preston (Seneca, deceased). Some were in school at the time; all were "first generation," meaning that their parents had been born on reservations. They founded the troupe to keep alive the traditions, songs and dances they had learned from their parents, and added to their repertoire from other Native Americans living in New York and some who were passing through. Jack Preston taught the company its Iroquois dances, including the Robin Dance and Fish Dance. To these were added dances from the plains, including the Hopi Buffalo Dance, and newer dances including the Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance. The company was all-volunteer, a tradition that exists to today. Members range in professions from teachers to hospital patient advocates, tree surgeons and computer engineers. Now Louis Mofsie says, "To be going for 50 years is just amazing to me, and to be able to do the work we do."

The troupe made a home in the old McBurney YMCA on 23rd Street and Seventh Ave. Within three or four years, they were traveling throughout the continental U.S., expanding and sharing their repertoire and gleaning new dances on the reservations. A number of Thunderbird members are winners of Fancy Dance contests held on reservations, where the standard of competition is unmistakably high.

The Thunderbird-TNC collaboration began in 1975, when Crystal Field directed a play called "The Only Good Indian." For research, Ms. Field lived on a Hopi reservation for three weeks. In preparation for the project, she met Louis Mofsie, Artistic Director of the group and a representative of the American Indian Community House. They made plans for a Pow Wow to celebrate the Winter Solstice. The event has continued annually to this day.

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 to-date.

Running from January 25 to February 3, 2013, the show plays Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (at Tenth Street). $10 general admission to all evening shows, whose running time is 2 hours.

MATINEES ARE KIDS' DAYS: At all matinee performances, children under twelve accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult are admitted for $1.00 (adults $10). Running time 1 hr. 30 min.
Box office/audience info (212) 254-1109. Online ticketing available at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

Pictured: Alan Browne - Shooting Star (Delaware/Dutch) greets a young audience member at 2009 Pow Wow. Photo by Suzanne Trouve Feff.

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