TNC PRESENTS ITS 49th ANNUAL THUNDERBIRD AMERICAN INDIAN DANCERS’ POW-WOW AND DANCE CONCERT JAN. 12 TO 21

Magnificent Colors of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Photo by Edward Kliszus
Magnificent Colors of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Photo by Edward Kliszus

NEW YORK — Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, will present its 49th annual Thunderbird American Dancers Pow Wow and Dance Concert from January 12 to 21, 2024. There will be dances, stories, and traditional music from 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.  TNC donates all proceeds from the event to college scholarship funds for Native American students.

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.

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.  He was awarded a 2019 Bessie Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance.  In 2017, he was honored, along with Garth Fagan and Martha Myers, with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Dance Guild.


Highlights will also include a Hoop Dance set to guitar and flute music that will be performed on alternating dates by Marie Ponce (Cherokee and Seminole) and Matt Cross (Kiowa); a Deer Dance (from the Yaqui Tribes of Southern Arizona) with Ciaran Tufford (Mayan/Cherokee) and Carlos Ponce (Mayan), and various ensemble dances: 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 Fancy Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes) and a Smoke Dance (from the Iroquois). As the audience enters the theater, they will be serenaded by the Heyna Second Son Singers (various tribes).

 

Pageantry is an important event component, 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. The dozen or so dancers are people of all ages, ranging from thirteen-year-old Isabel Cespedes (Mayan) to retirees.

Native American crafts and jewelry will be sold in the TNC lobby.

Matinées are kids’ days when children aged five to twelve accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult are admitted for $1.00 (adults $15). At the conclusion of these matinées, young audience members are invited to pose for pictures with the dancers.

ABOUT THUNDERBIRD AMERICAN INDIAN 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 were descended from the 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, deceased), Muriel Miguel (Cuna/Rappahannock) and Jack Preston (Seneca, deceased). Some were in school then; all were “first generation,” meaning their parents had been born on reservations. They founded the troupe to keep the traditions, songs, and dances they had learned from their parents alive 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 today. Members range in professions from teachers to hospital patient advocates, tree surgeons, and computer engineers. Now Louis Mofsie says, “To be going for 60 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 traveled 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 dance troupe and a representative of the American Indian Community House. Mofsie suggested a Pow Wow and dance concert to celebrate the winter solstice. Field, who is herself 1% Native American, committed herself to bringing this to fruition.  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.


Theater for the New City is located at 155 First Avenue (at Tenth Street). Performances are January 12-21, Fridays at 8:00 PM, Saturdays at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $15 for general admission. Matinees are kids’ days when vaccinated children ages five to twelve accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult are admitted for $1.00 (adults $15). 

 

TNC box office:  212-254-1109, www.theaterforthenewecity.net
Running time 90 min (all shows). Reviewers are invited to all performances.

Readers may also enjoy reading Kaatsbaan Ballet Intensive, Wine Tasting Fundraiser,  Smashworks Social,  Thunderbird Dancers, and the Fall for Dance Festival.

TNC PRESENTS ITS 49th ANNUAL THUNDERBIRD AMERICAN INDIAN DANCERS’ POW-WOW AND DANCE CONCERT JAN. 12 TO 21

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