Wide in appeal, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers have made an enormous contribution to the effort of preserving and perpetuating American Indian culture. For over twenty-five years, Thunderbird Dancers have enchanted a diverse array of audiences through performance with the varied traditions of the American Indian peoples. Specializing in the songs and dances of the tribes of the Northwest Coast, Woodlands (Iroquois and Winnebago), Plains (Sioux) and the Southwest (Hopi and Santo Domingo), their repertoire includes the traditional “Fancy Dance” and “Hoop Dance,” as well as a variety of other distinct regional tribal dances. Wonderfully presented with descriptive narration, Thunderbird Dancers’ programs are among the most compelling anywhere.
Forms of Native American Music and Dance
In Native American culture, music and dance are metaphors for the celebration of all aspects of life. They are, at the same time, indispensable fuels that have fed the flames of honor and tradition. Not only do they enable people to remember history in their minds, but to experience it with their bodies.
Music is a part of everyday live for Native Americans and is deeply rooted in the relationship between the sounds of nature and the human need to express emotions. Along with dance, it serves to complement an action, such as grinding corn or riding a horse. Therefore, the concept of listening for pleasure does not exist in Native culture. For the large part, music is vocal in nature and not composed in the Western sense. Rather, it is considered to be channeled to an individual through a spirit by means of visions or dreams. Instruments are mostly percussive, although few wind instruments (including flutes and whistles made of wood, clay, sea shells, metal, bird bones, reeds, and animal horns) exist, in addition to rattles.
Historically, dances were held for various purposes, including preparation for war and commemoration of victories. A number of Southeastern American Indian dances were named after animals, such as the quail and guinea, in the belief that dance movements impacted animals and their relations with humans. Dancing also appeared in rituals and ceremonies.
Native American dance does not serve to entertain or amuse. Rather, it acts as a vehicle for praise and worship while providing the means for dancers to experience interconnectedness through motion. Dance is celebrated in everyday life and in powwows, where dancing areas are considered to be sacred.