A Modern Twist On Pow Wow Dances

ICTMN Staff
1/17/11

The Many Moccasins Dance Troupe rips through a seriously impressive range of traditional Native American dances in a thoroughly unique, thrilling way.  Together for ten years, the troupe performs men's fancy feather dances, women's fancy shawl dances, and the beloved hoop dance.  They also do specific tribal dances, like the Winnebago's Ho-chunk Appliqué Dance.

They tour the country, blowing minds at the largest American Indian Business conference in the world (the Reservation Economic Summit Conference in Las Vegas), have performed with cast members form Hollywood blockbuster Twilight: New Moon, and at pow wows like the Winnebago Homecoming Celebration. Manager Shaunya Manus got us in touch with the troupe,   and we asked the troupe a few questions like what are the rigors of dancing for a living, how long it takes to master a dance, and what stars they'd love to work with in the future.

Is there a specific style of dance that lends itself best to your talents? Fancy Dance? Men’s Traditional? The unique thing about this dance troupe is that we have champion fancy dancers and we have champion traditional dancers but it's how they interact with the youth is where the magic happens. In the troupe we have different tribal members and a wide range of talent.

On your site you mention doing dances particular to certain tribes, such as the “Fish Dance” and the “Ho-Chunk Appliqué Dance”, can you give us a few others you like to perform? In order for us to properly perform these dances we have to get permission from our elders or if that dance belongs to a certain tribe we ask permission. As a group we sit down and talk about what we can do to best educate those who want to know more about our culture. Depending on the venue we add different dances such as the eagle dance, the butterfly dance, pipe dance and the Hoop dance which is very popular with the crowds.

Do you perform at any big Pow Wows during the year, or are you more focused on doing performances in other venues? Our performers are professional dancers in both the theater setting and in the pow wow circle. Since our core group is from Winnebago we always take time out to honor our Veterans and visitors that come to our annual Winnebago Homecoming Celebration. It’s over 140 years old and features over 30,000 visitors and hundreds of dancers. Most of our members usually take the summer months off to attend pow wows and celebrations.

What kind of props, audio and visual techniques have you incorporated over the years that you feel add best to your performances?  We have incorporated both theatrical and contemporary dance in addition to the traditional Native American dances. We have segments featuring a butterfly dancer, an eagle dancer and occasionally we will have an Aztec dancer representing the Southern Native Americans. Our music has evolved to include a blend of traditional native songs with a contemporary tempo for a unique sound. All and all the dance troupe will keep dispelling myths and stereotypes about the Native American with pride and continue on with their cultural exchange.

Are there any dancing/performance stars out there you’d like to work with? We are open to any opportunities that we could be a part of and always share, learn and teach from others. We have performed for Music Awards shows featuring many various national award winning artists such as Marty Stewart, Robert Mirabal, Brule & AIRO , Buffy St. Marie ( to name a few). Maybe in the future it would be great to work with Circus De Soleil. It would be amazing if they had a show dedicated or themed about the Native American. Possibly some European groups might be interested in working with us.

How long does it take to master a specific dance? What kind of injuries have you sustained? Many of the performers have been dancing all their lives. We believe starting young is key to getting a champion dancer. They become more comfortable in the circle, however you are never too young to start. It is hard to set a specific timeline of how  long it takes, each person is different. The beautiful thing about dancing is that it’s a creative expression so you are always thinking of ways to become better. It is a celebration of life and it helps to create a physical, spiritual and mental balance in your life. The Creator has given each of us unique gifts, find them and you will be on your way. Many of the dancers are in top shape, we practice often and live drug and alcohol free. No major injuries have come our way, just the usual muscle cramps or soreness. Many of the dancers are so eager to dance and perform that they work right through it.

What’s the future hold for the Many Moccasins Dance Troupe? We have many young dancers that are up and coming champions, we would like to continue helping themwith that endeavor. The dance Troupe just finished an eleven city tour of Nebraska that went very well. The response was so great that many of the audiences commented that they will never forget what they seen. The best part is that they were entertained while being educated. We would like to travel overseas with a huge international production featuring Native American dancing and singing with the futuristic and contemporary adaptation we bring to our company. Not to mention our unique style of music we use that is different from the regular pow wow setting.

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