BWW Reviews: Theater for the New City's 40th Annual Thunderbird American Indian Dancers' Dance Concert and Pow-Wow

Keeping the traditional dances, stories, and music of more than ten Native American tribes--from the Iroquois and Native Peoples of the Northeast, Southwest, and Great Plains regions alive--the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers brought the spirit of these first Americans to the Theater for the New City.

The company was founded in 1963 in New York. It is not easy to transpose an outdoor tradition of old to a downtown theater of today; but this is an important culture to preserve and introduce to all Americans. The audience was diverse.

Artistic Director and Emcee, Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago), one of the founders, explained all elements of the performance in depth through detailed introductions, with an ability to present a comprehensive view of native culture.

The opening Music by Heyna Second Sons Singers and Ensemble got us in the spirit. The dancers, elaborately dressed in colorful costumes with beaded accessories and moccasins, men in feathered headdresses, engaged in twelve segments of dance and song, including one storytelling by Matoaka Little Eagle (Santo Domingo, Tewa). Some dances included both men and women, while other dances were shared by groups of either men or women. The Smoke Dance (from the Iroquois), for instance, began with men telling, in dance form, stories of bravery, followed by women doing the Smoke Dance. This was followed by the Stomp Dance (from the Southeastern tribes), which was performed by men with bells around their ankles. In the Jingle Dress and Grass Dances (from the Northern Plains people), women in dresses embellished with many metal jingling pieces and men in clothes with hanging bits of material, resembling grasses, the dancers seemed to enjoy themselves while creating patterns on the stage with their movements and further patterns of the "grasses", accompanied by the rhythm of the jingling metal adornments.

Audience members were invited to join the troupe on stage for the Round Dance. This was undoubtedly more fun for the participants than for those of us still watching. The fancy footwork of the Shawl Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes), created around 1945 after WWII, was most impressive. A highlight of the evening, the Hoop Dance, performed by Marie Ponce (Cherokee), is from the Taoist Pueblo People of New Mexico. The dancer must pick up one to six hoops without using hands and then dance with the hoops, creating patterns fascinating to see.

The dancers are all volunteers All proceeds benefit college scholarships for the Native American Scholarship Fund.

Photo Credit: Lee Wexler

Upcoming Events:

Dance and Music Workshop and Crafts Sale

Sat., March 21, 2015, 7:00-10:00PM, free admission

254 W. 29th St., 2nd floor, NYC

Traditional Native American Dance Social

Sat., April 18th, 2015, 7:00-10:00PM, free admission

National Museum if the American Indian

1 Bowling Green, NYC

Annual Grand Mid-Summer Pow Wow

Fri.-Sun., July 24-26, 2015

Queens County Farm Museum

73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park, NY

718 347-FARM (for information)


Check the Thunderbird website:

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From This Author Rose Marija

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