THUNDERBIRD AMERICAN INDIAN DANCERS' DANCE CONCERT AND POW-WOW
Theater for the New City
WHERE AND WHEN:
February 5 to 14, 2016
Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (at Tenth Street). Presented by Theater for the New City.
$10 general admission to all evening shows, whose running time is 90 min.
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 90 min.
All performances are recommended for kids 5 and up.
Box office/audience info (212) 254-1109. Online ticketing available at www.theaterforthenewcity.net
NEW YORK, January 4 -- Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, will present its 41st annual Thunderbird
American Dancers Dance Concert and Pow Wow from February 5 to 14, 2016. There will be dances, stories
and traditional music from the Iroquois and Native Peoples of the Northeast, Southwest and Great Plains
regions. The event has become a treasured New York tradition for celebrating our diversity by honoring the
culture of our first Americans.
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.
Highlights will include storytelling by Matoka Eagle (Santo Domingo, Tewa), a Hoop Dance by Marie Ponce
(Cherokee) and Michael Taylor (Choctaw), a Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance (from the Northern Plains
people), a Stomp Dance (from the Southeastern tribes), a Shawl Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes), a Deer
Dance (from the Yaqui Tribes of Southern Arizona), a Fancy Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes) and a Robin
Dance and Smoke Dance (from the Iroquois). As the audience enters the theater, they will be serenaded by 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/Friendship Dance (in evening shows) and a Contest Dance (in matinees). After the
program, the dancers stay for photographs and to meet the audience.
Pageantry is an important component of the event, and all participants are elaborately dressed. There is a wealth
of cultural information encoded in the movements of each dance. More than ten distinct tribes will be
represented in the performance.
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 crafts, jewelry will be sold in the TNC lobby.
Matinees are kids' days, when children under twelve accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult are admitted for
$1.00 (adults $10). At the conclusion of these matinees, young audience members are welcome to the stage to
be photographed with the dancers. This component of the show was inspired by the troupe's school residencies.
Says Louis Mofsie, the Thunderbirds' artistic director, "Educators try to supplement the kids' knowledge of
Native Americans and to teach them about different cultures. But the emphasis is on how we used to live, in the
past tense. The kids are never taught how to relate to us in the present. Now they can meet us, and be
photographed with us, and it's present tense. It's more than just seeing us on stage." He adds, "Learning about
different cultures is important to enlarging the kids' perspective, particularly in light of what's going on in the
world. We're in trouble today because we don't understand different cultures."
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. 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 troupe's appearances benefit college scholarship funds for Native American students. 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. Theater for the New
City has been presenting Pow-Wows annually as a two-week event since 1976, with the box office donated to these scholarships.
Pictured: Thunderbird American Indian Dancers' 40th annual Dance Concert and Pow-Wow, Theater for the New City, 2015. Heyna Second Sons Singers and Ensemble. Photo by Rosalie Baijer.
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