The 52nd annual Thunderbird American Dancers Dance Concert and Pow Wow is playing at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue and is a must for families. From the Iroquois and Native Peoples of the Northeast, Southwest and Great Plains regions dances, stories and traditional music abound. This is a joyous reminder of the Native American culture and their vast history.
You enter the theatre serenaded by the Heyna Second Son Singers (various tribes). 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. Their is storytelling by Matoka Eagle (Santo Domingo, Tewa), a fabulous Hoop Dance by Marie Ponce (Cherokee), an Eagle Dance from the Hopi Tribe by Raymond Two Feathers (Cherokee), 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) and a Robin Dance and Smoke Dance (from the Iroquois).
Full of pageantry and pride the participants are elaborately dressed. More than ten distinct tribes are represented in the performance. In a time that ribs were at war this peaceful creative celebration is a tribute to a combined love of their culture.
I saw the show on a matinee where under twelve, accompanied by an adult for $10, are admitted for $1. Young audience members thrilled at the show before them and one of the best moments was the feather dance where children are invited up to capture a feather without hands. It is the most adorable thing to watch. Afterwards they are welcome to the stage to be photographed with the dancers.
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 descend 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).
They founded the troupe to keep traditions, songs and dances alive, that they had learned from their parents, and added to their repertoire from other Native Americans living in New York. 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 all-volunteer, is a tradition that still exists to today. The troupes home is in the old McBurney YMCA on 23rd Street and Seventh Ave.
The troupe’s appearances also 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.
There is even Native American arts & crafts and jewelry on sale.
This is the perfect Valentine’s Day present to yourself and your family.
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, Feb 12th at 8pm, 13th at 3pm and 8pm and Valentine’s Day the 14th at 3pm.