Native Pride Dancers, a Minnesota-based group formed in 2003 by
World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie, the journey through song
and dance is just about to cross borders as they travel the distance
to express themselves.
It is perhaps due to Yazzie, 45, the visionary, that keeps the
troupe known for its high-energy, colorful shows that blend modern
and traditional Native American dance, always moving forward.
"My vision has always been to perform overseas. There are lots
of potential to branch out to different parts of the country too,"
said Yazzie. "My dream is to reach higher, to collaborate with other
artists outside of our Native culture like hip hop and rock."
International travel is something they have done. They have
done shows in Europe and the Middle East for years. Yazzie said
that after a recent performance in Jordan, some inquiries have been
made for them to come to Egypt and Israel.
Here at home, the troupe's credits include dancing at the Atlanta
Summer Olympics, the Kennedy Center, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade,
NBA halftime events, and festivals and pow wows throughout the U.S.
Yazzie's younger brother, Arlan Whitebreast, 40, a grass dancer,
who has been with the group for eight years, has not gone on international
tours yet but thinks along the same line as Yazzie when it comes
to the direction the troupe is heading.
"I think we are on the tip of an iceberg. We have not yet fully
developed to what we can be. Personally, I want to see more big
venues, theaters and overseas shows," he said.
Last year, in September, Whitebreast said they did something
unlike their regular pow wow shows and theatrical stage performances.
The troupe collaborated with Grammy Award winner Joanne Shenandoah,
Oneida Nation, on a music video.
"There is a lot of potential for that," Whitebreast said, referring
to dancing for the Native singer in the video.
Whitebreast and Yazzie and another brothernot involved
with Native Pride Dancersgrew up in Tama, Iowa and raised
in the traditions of Meskwaki/Diné culture by their mother
Their stepfather, a fancy dancer who taught the boys to dance,
passed away two years ago. Aside from Whitebreast, Yazzie has called
on his son Jessup, 13, and Samarra, 6, and aunt, Dana Davenporte,
to perform with them.
The core group is composed of eight members, including the family
members. Depending on the venue and the event, they can travel with
a larger group of 15 or more.
They dance a variety, such as, fancy, hoop, chicken, grass, men's
northern traditional, womens' fancy shawl , womens' jingle and womens'
Jessup is a boys' northern style fancy dancer. He has been dancing
since he was two years old when he won his first trophy in Roseau,
Canada. When he was three, he won another one at the Gathering of
Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I enjoy helping other people feel good through my dance and
inspiring other kids to be open minded and learn about other cultures,"
Yazzie said another young member of the family is following
their steps. "My little granddaughter, Sade Kapayou, danced with
us last summer at a production at the Meskwaki Convention Center
in Tama, Iowa."
group is inspirational, majestic, beautiful, entertaining, interactive,
and funny. Our dancers are champion dancers and we've also taken
young dancers in and assisted in developing them to move forward
with their dancing," said Yazzie.
"A big part of our program are the stories behind the dancing,
about us and who we are as Natives," said Whitebreast.
"We make it really personal. We just don't go up and dance.
We break it down; we inform and educate you," he said. "Dancing
is one aspect. It is important to be able to reach out, to inspire
you to do something good in your life."
Meanwhile, Yazzie, the Native Pride Dancers founder, is already
reaching out. Aside from being an actor, a desire to collaborate with
other artists, he also wants get into flute music recording. When
he says that the troupe's fan base better take note.
His brother said it best: "What we do is a small piece of who
we are and what we could be.