Entering the doors through the bellowing sounds of the drum mixed with the excitement of the children in the audience, there’s a buzzing sense of warmth and mystery that envelopes the space. Theater for the New City is overflowing with parents and children spilling onto blanket seats on the floor. In the introduction to Thunderbird American Indian Dancers In Concert, Artistic Director, Louis Mofsie, states the Hopi greeting translated to, “How am I walking,” and asks the audience to reply, “Good.” Simple pleasantries of addressing the audience in the Hopi language, immediately take the audience from observers to participants.
Louis Mofsie, Brooklyn-born, and raised by Hopi father from Arizona, and Winnebago mother from Nebraska, leads the crowd on a journey through dance as ceremonial, as ritual, as social, and as competitive experiences in a variety of Native American cultures. Exploring the techniques of the sights and sounds and movement of the dances with the spirit of the youth in the audience is a powerful experience.
Founded 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, the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers continue to preserve the cultural and historical perspective on traditional dances and storytelling from New York to the Northwest. The beauty of this 36th annual concert, in partnership with Crystal Fields of Theater for the New City, is the combination of drum, song, costume, and movement to create the world of the community from which the dance has originated. In the intimate three-quarter stage presentation, the performance is very accessible and the audience feels apart of the community of dancers. At one occasion, during the children’s matinee, the youth in the audience are invited to participate in the Contest Dance for the feather. We are engaged throughout the concert in a narrated journey with a context for each of the dances and stories, which enable the audience to relate to the material presented.
Highlights of this year’s presentation feature a Robin Dance, a Smoke Dance, a Stomp Dance, a Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance, a Feather Contest Dance, a Caribou Dance, an Eagle Dance, a Shawl Dance, and a Hoop Dance. Featured performers include music by the Heyna Second Son Singers and Storytelling by Matoake Little Eagle.
It is a matter of cultural appreciation and historical preservation that everyone needs to attend one of the following events offered in the upcoming months by Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. The concert at Theater for the New City also benefits the scholarship fund for future Native American students. There’s a special weekend matinee deal on Saturday and Sunday at 3pm, where children under 12 years old pay $1 when accompanied by an adult paying full price $10. Regular performances are Friday and Saturday at 8pm for $10/ticket. This is an opportunity to hear an explanation of the derivation of the dances, their purpose, and to see and to hear told, through movement and song, the life of a variety of Native American tribes.
Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Annual Concert
at The Theater for the New City on tenth street and first avenue in New York City
February 1-3, 2013
Fri. and Sat. 8p $10 and Sat./Sun 3pm $10 adults and $1 child under 12 (if accompanied by adult fare)
Crafts Sale & Dance Workshop (lessons in Native American dancing)
Sat. March 16, 2013 7-10p Free
American Indian Community House
134 W 29th St, 4th FL, NYC
Traditional Native American Dance Social
Sat. April 20, 2013 7-10p Free
National Museum of the American Indian
One Bowling Green, NYC
Annual Grand Mid-Summer Pow Wow
Fri. – Sun. July 26 – 28, 2013 (see Thunderbird website for details)
Queens County Farm Museum