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‘Thunderbird American Indian Dancers’

Presented by Theater for the New City

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. Pageantry is an important component of the event, and all participants are elaborately dressed. Most dances are performed in the traditional Circle, which represents a unity of peoples. There is a wealth of cultural information encoded in the movements of each dance. More than ten distinct tribes are represented in the performance.

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. 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. (A number of Thunderbird members are winners of Fancy Dance contests held on reservations, where the standard of competition is unmistakably high.) Members of the Thunderbirds range in professions from teachers to hospital patient advocates, tree surgeons and computer engineers.

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY (TNC) is a Pulitzer Prize winning community cultural center that is known for its high artistic standards and widespread community service. One of New York’s most prolific theatrical organizations, TNC produces 30-40 premieres of new American plays per year, at least 10 of which are by emerging and young playwrights. TNC seeks to develop theater audiences and inspire future theater artists from the often-overlooked low-income minority communities of New York City by producing minority writers from around the world and by bringing the community into theater and theater into the community through its many free Festivals.