Native American Dance in Performance: A Choreographer’s Approach

Having been a student of dance technique for most of my life, I was startled when I realized that my perspective on this art form is very narrow. I know dance to be an innately human means of emotional expression, storytelling and communal bonding. Yet, in my experience with dance, consisting almost exclusively of ballet-based technique classes, I see nothing of this universality. I imagine I am not alone in my ignorance; the “dance world” in the U.S. is dominated by the Western European art of ballet and its offspring, modern dance. Lesser-known dance styles are sometimes incorporated into contemporary dance works, and cultural dance genres such as African dance have gained attention. However, in a country marked by diversity, I believe it is important that the public are exposed to a more representative concept of dance, replacing stereotypes of ballerinas with holistic understanding of what dance means to a people.  In particular, I want to explore dance as practiced by Native American tribes in the Eastern U.S., for though their dance tradition was developed in this region long before Western colonization, it appears more foreign to us today than the ballet which was imported from France, Russia and Italy.

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