Thunderbird American Indian Dancers’ 36th Annual Pow-Wow

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Carlos Ponce in Pow Wow
POW WOW DANCER- Carlos Ponce performing in Friendship Dance in 2009 Pow Wow. Photo by Raji Bhathal.

Thunderbird American Indian Dancers will hold their 36th annual Dance Concert and Pow Wow at Manhattan’s Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, from January 28 to February 6, 2011. There will be dances, stories and traditional music from the Iroquois and Native Peoples of the Northwest Coast, the Southwest, the Plains, and the Arctic regions. Between 25 and 30 dancers will assemble for the event.

All appearances by Thunderbird American Indian Dancers benefit college funds for needy Native American students. Theater for the New City has presented the company’s Pow-Wows annually as a two-week event since 1976, donating the box office to these funds.

Highlights of this year’s celebration will include a Hoop Dance performed by Marie McKinney (Cherokee), a Caribou Dance (from the Inuit people of Alaska), a Buffalo Dance (from the Hopi people), a Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance (from the Northern Plains people), a Stomp Dance (from the Southeastern tribes), and a Shawl Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes). Featured performers will include the Heyna Second Son Singers (various tribes). In the final section of the program, the audience will be invited to join in the Round Dance, a friendship dance.

Marie McKinney and child
KIDS DAYS- Marie McKinney (Cherokee and Seminole) and child from the audience during the 2009 Pow Wow. Photo by Suzanne Trouve Feff.

A Pow-Wow is more than just a spectator event: it is a joyous reunion for native peoples nationwide and an opportunity for the non-Indian community to voyage into the philosophy and beauty of Native culture. Traditionally a gathering and sharing of events, Pow-Wows have come to include spectacular dance competitions, exhibitions, and enjoyment of traditional foods.

Ensemble in 2009
POW WOW PAGEANTRY- Ensemble members from 2009 Pow Wow: (L-R) Connor Tufford, Blaise Stalk, Julian Gabourel, Kiaran Tufford, Kitty Gabourel. Obscured in the back are Sandi Capasso and Marie McKinney. Photo by Raji Bhathal.

Throughout the performance, all elements are explained in depth through detailed introductions by the troupe’s Director and Emcee Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago). An educator, Mofsie plays an important part in the show by his ability to present a comprehensive view of native culture. Native American craft items will be displayed in the TNC lobby.

The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers are the oldest resident Native American dance company in New York. The troupe was 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. Some were in school at the time; all were “first generation,” meaning that their parents had been born on reservations.

Louis Mofsie
MASTER OF CEREMONIES- Artistic Director Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago) is MC of Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

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, and 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.

Performances are January 28 to February 6, 2011, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm. Theater for the New City is located at 155 First Avenue (at Tenth Street). Tickets are $10 general admission to all evening shows, whose running time is two hours. At all matinees (Sat and Sun at 3:00 PM), children under twelve accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult are admitted for $1.00 (adults are $10). The matinees run 1 hr. 30 min. The box office and audience info number is (212) 254-1109. Online ticketing is available at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.