Derrick Suwaima Davis - Ken Ross Photography
Courtesy Ken Ross Photography
Derrick Suwaima Davis is one of six dancers to catch on the pow wow trail as part of ICTMN's 2016 Hot List.

6 Dancers to Catch on the Pow Wow Trail: 2016 Hot List

Samuel White Swan-Perkins

The best dancers are spiritual and move us every time they move, connecting the earth, the sky, and our hearts to the movements of dance.

Here are six dancers to catch on the pow wow trail as part of  ICTMN's 2016 Hot List.

The Teacher - Norman Roach

Norman Roach - Facebook

Dancer, choreographer and flutist Norman Roach hails from Cheyenne River. Norman began dancing as a child— his mother was the legendary fancy shawl dancer Julia Roach— and he became a champion early on and continued to collect winnings from the 1950s through the 1970s. He also danced with the American Indian Dance Theatre, inspiring generations of actors and performance artists. He once even appeared on the beloved children’s television show Sesame Street.

Norman is a survivor of the boarding school system. He recalls spending nine months in school and in the summer months working the local pow wow circuit on horseback with his family. Motivated by the harsh treatment he witnessed of the children without families at his childhood school, Roach became an educator. “I try to keep a perspective and teach different audiences that we are all in this together. We are all related even to the animal world, we are all here together. I was set on this Earth probably to help with pow wows and Native American dance.”

The King of Hip-Hop - Supaman

Chris Parrish, a.k.a Supaman - AP Images

Known for his trademark look, which includes fancy dance regalia with a huge USDA Approved medallion, there’s no one in the game quite like Chris Parrish, a.k.a Supaman. A master of the MC, DJ and B-Boy hip-hop styles, Supaman, Crow, embodies an urban dance influence but still adheres to the traditional form. His merging of styles wasn’t planned, fate played a part in his amazing success when he was asked to perform on camera.

"I danced first and then I was going to change into my civilian clothes to rap,” he told the Billings Gazette. “But there wasn’t any time, so I ended up just performing hip-hop in my fancy outfit, which was something different and the people really thought it was special."

In a music genre riddled with unrealistic messages; Supaman addresses substance abuse, absentee parents and suicide, themes all too familiar with the young people in too many communities, Native and non-Native alike.

The Prodigy - Tony Duncan

Tony Duncan - Courtesy Photo

Tony Duncan, San Carlos Apache/Arikara/Mandan and Hidatsa, a champion hoop dancer, musician, flutist and father, was taught to hoop dance by his father when he was 5. Now a five-time world champion with half a dozen music records under his belt, Duncan is a heavyweight contender in the competitive pow wow world. He mixes live music and hoop dance and has worked with mainstream performers such as Nelly Furtado and has performed around the world, with stops in Paris, London, Tokyo, Sweden, the Philippines, the Island of Malta, Toronto and Paraguay. A member of Yellow Bird Dancers, Duncan cites sobriety as a key component of his success:

“You have to have a set of goals. Then make the right decisions to attain those goals. I’ve always been drug and alcohol-free. I’ve never drank alcohol in my life— that’s something I am proud to say. Alcohol and drugs have always been one of those obstacles in the way of success for too many young people, Native or non-Native.”

With so many successes under his belt by the age of 30, there is no doubt Duncan will be making his mark in Indian country for decades to come.

The Healer - Acosia Red Elk

Acosia Red Elk - YouTube

Her Instagram account description gives you some sense of how multi-talented she is. It says she’s: “Umatilla-Jingle Dancer-Buti Yoga Instructor-Cultural  Teacher-Glass-Artist-Designer-Hunter/Gatherer-Spiritual-Daughter-Sister-Friend”

And that’s just scratching the surface of what Acosia Red Elk, Umatilla/Cayuse/Walla Walla/Colville, has done, and is doing. As an eight-time Gathering of Nations contemporary Jingle Dress Champion, she has been featured in music videos with Supaman and is a favorite of the West Coast pow wow circuits.

She is currently working with her mother in a glass studio and is developing a healing arts studio for women and children who have been harmed by addiction and/or domestic abuse.

A dancer since 1998, she tells ICTMN, ”Dancing keeps me thriving with culture and identity. I dance for healing and connection and for the empowerment it brings to the people. As a jingle dancer I place positive intentions into my steps and let the sound bring healing over the people and the earth. We become unified when we are dancing to that drum beat.”

The Shy Dazzler - Nakota LaRance

Nakotah LaRance Pow Wow Dancer - AP Photo, The Canadian Press, Jacques Boissinot

As an early admirer of the dance form, Nakota LaRance, Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboine, knew by age four that hoop dancing was for him. As reigning champion of the Heard Museum’s 26th Annual Hoop Dance contest, LaRance is coming off a two-year run with Cirque du Soleil’s Totem.

Nakota is also the two-time champion of the contest held each February in Phoenix. In 2014, he beat his old hoop dance teacher, Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw) by just six points. Now a mentor and instructor himself, Nakota says of his mentor: ”He taught me my whole routine when I was a kid, but those teaching days are far behind.” LaRance now teaches 5-17 year olds, when he is not occupied with his film and performance career. He has been featured in three films and a music video. According to his father, Steve LaRance, “He’s media-shy and doesn’t like to do interviews. Nakotah prefers to stay humble, enjoying his acting and dancing, and likes to let his performances speak for him.” With his drive and positive, yet humble attitude, Nakota is sure to be a crowd pleaser and champion for years to come.

The Master of Many Forms - Derrick Suwaima Davis

Derrick Suwaima Davis - Courtesy Ken Ross Photography

Travelling around the Navajo and Hopi Reservations as  a young child, Arizona native Derrick Suwaima Davis, Hopi/Choctaw, was exposed to various forms of dance. As an adult, he has mastered not only hoop but also horsetail, fancy, eagle and other cultural dances. As an accomplished musician, he has worked  with the Phoenix Symphony, the American Dance Theater, Canyon Records and even Willie Nelson.

In addition to his many artistic pursuits, Derrick has another passion: diabetes prevention. He recorded a public service announcement with the Arizona Department of Health Services and works to raise awareness.

His message to the youth: ”Don’t worry about being unique. Just be yourself. As a father, I don’t expect my boys to grow up to be like me. They have a gift and a purpose. So if I live my life with good intentions and I stay true to who I am, then I think that’s a good role model for my boys to stay true to who they are.”


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