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Indigenous Dance of the Americas

A full week of activities at Jacob’s Pillow in 2019 was designated as The Land On Which We Dance, in honor of the Indigenous peoples of the Mohican, Nipmuc, Pocumtuc, and Agawam tribes who originally inhabited this area. As part of the contemporary celebration, we looked back upon decades of Indigenous presentations on all three Pillow stages, with representations here of both the 2019 gathering and some of what came before, also explored in a related podcast.

18 performances

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Indigenous Dance of the Americas

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Christopher K. Morgan & Artists

Pōhaku, 2019

This California-born artist explores his Hawaiian ancestry in contemporary explorations of social and cultural issues. He was integrally involved in planning The Land On Which We Dance, along with Sandra Laronde and Larry Spotted Crow Mann.

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Playing 1 of 18

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Tyrenn Lodgepole

Men's Chicken Dance, 2019

This dance and regalia mimic the male prairie chicken’s flamboyant displays during mating season.

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Playing 2 of 18

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Shae LeBeau

Smoke Dance and Side Step, 2019

These are two distinct dances, the first known for its fast beats and fiery footwork while the second is a jingle dress dance, a staple of contemporary powwows.

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Playing 3 of 18

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Kenneth Shirley

Men's Fancy War Dance, 2019

One of the most popular dances in contemporary powwow performances and competitions, this dance is presented here by Kenneth Shirley, who participated in the virtual inaugural parade for President Joe Biden.

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Playing 4 of 18

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Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers

Calumet and Eastern Blanket Dance, 2019

The traditions seen here are native to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, presented by tribes from Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.

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Playing 5 of 18

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Hector LeBeau

Traditional War Dance, 2019

This War Dance was a traditional custom for occasions when the Cheyenne River Sioux were going to war or preparing for a hunt.

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Playing 6 of 18

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Cameron Fraser-Monroe

Hoop Dance (not traditional), 2019

Also a dancer with Red Sky Performance, Cameron Fraser-Monroe presents his own version of a hoop dance. It is informed not only by years of training with traditional artists, but it also reflects his studies with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

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Playing 7 of 18

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Red Sky Performance

Trace, 2019

As the centerpiece of The Land On Which We Dance, Red Sky Performance packed the Doris Duke Theatre and energized its capacity audiences. Each performance began with a historic film of Tom Two Arrows at the Pillow in 1949, with the Red Sky musicians offering live accompaniment.

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Playing 8 of 18

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Thunderbird American Indian Dancers

Ya-oh-way, 2017

Recipient of a 2019 New York Dance and Performance Award (familiarly known as a Bessie) for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance, Louis Mofsie has been a major force behind the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers since its founding in 1963.

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Playing 9 of 18

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Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima

Hula ʻAuana, 2012

This Honolulu-based company has performed all over the world, seen here using the traditional bamboo sticks known as pu’ili.

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Playing 10 of 18

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Hālau I Ka Wēkiu

E Pele, E Pele, 2008

Although the all-male dance seen here seems to indicates otherwise, this O’ahu-based company includes both men and women. The group celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008 by embarking on an East Coast tour which included a stop at Jacob’s Pillow.

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Playing 11 of 18

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American Indian Dance Theater

Kotuwokan, 1998

The full-evening work entitled Kotuwokan is represented here by two traditional dance excerpts, but another notable aspect of this production was a section entitled “New Dance” that was created by modern dance choreographer Laura Dean.

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Playing 12 of 18

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American Indian Dance Theater

Hoop Dance, 1995

The traditional role of the Hoop Dance is to teach and convey stories about how all natural things are connected, yet they grow and change.

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Playing 13 of 18

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Halau Hula O Hoakalei

Aia Molokaʻi Kuʻu Iwa, 1990

This company performed in two consecutive Pillow seasons—first in the Ted Shawn Theatre and then in the Duke—and both times on a program shared with an all-male hula troupe. The group’s late founder is featured in this rare footage.

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Playing 14 of 18

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Ka Pā Hula Hawaiʻi Hula

Awala Tai ehu I Ka Moana, 1989

Seen here in their only Pillow appearance, these dancers represent one of three companies sharing a program devoted to Native American Dance and Music, presented in the Ted Shawn Theatre.

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Playing 15 of 18

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American Indian Dance Theater

Traditional Dances, 1989

These dance excerpts document the Pillow debut of a company that would go on to perform twice more in the Ted Shawn Theatre—receiving even greater attention in two appearances on the PBS television series, Great Performances.

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Playing 16 of 18

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Halau Hula O Hoakalei

ʻAno ʻai, 1989

In the first of two back-to-back Pillow engagements, this Hawaiian company invited nature into the scene by performing with the back stage doors of the Ted Shawn Theatre open to the elements.

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Playing 17 of 18

Tom Two Arrows

Iroquois Indian Dance, 1949

This is the unique “time capsule” that opened each performance by Red Sky in 2019, a 70-year-old silent film of Tom Two Arrows at Jacob’s Pillow, accompanied live by the musicians of Red Sky.

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Playing 18 of 18

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