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Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Where would you go to see an authentic Pow-Wow? Surprisingly, such a thing can be seen right in downtown Manhattan at the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers in concert. The event took place at the Theater for the New City at 155 First Avenue in the East Village. This Pow-Wow, an annual event for the last 36 years, is a celebration of music, dance, and storytelling, with proceeds to benefit a scholarship fund for American Indian students. From their website:

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. 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. 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.

The juxtaposition of old traditional activities set against a contemporary urban environment is often jarring yet a wonderful opportunity to be catapulted to another time and place. For those with the time, money, and inclination, respite from the city's stresses can be had by vacationing. However, full immersion in something like an American Indian Pow-Wow can also provide a small holiday for the mind, while at the same time giving a window into another culture.

This event was recommended to me by a friend, Evan (see here and here), who has participated in this for years. I went with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised. The second half of the show was very dynamic, with continuous dance and musical accompaniment. One piece, the Round Dance, encouraged audience participation. My favorite piece was the Hoop Dance, which I found close to heart (my business makes hoops). It was fascinating to see an example of the adage that there is nothing new under the sun and that hooping (ala the hula hoop) has ancient precursors, relatively unknown, practiced right here in the United States by the American Indian. See my video of highlights of the show below.

Dig deep, read between the lines, and you will find another way to enjoy what New York City has to offer at an authentic Pow-Wow :)

1 comment:

Karen said...

Great post. Pow-Wows are a great community event. Growing up in small town Canada the Blackfoot Nation was a big part of the community. Pow-Wows were common. For High School graduations they had a Pow-Wow for all graduating students. Everyone participated, parents and students. My favorite dance was the Owl Dance. It's a group dance. Most of the dancers spent a great deal of time on their outfits as well, particulary the Jingle Dancers.