NY - The beat of the water drum signals the dancers.
They move in a circle, their feet moving
to the rhythm of the drum, wearing brightly colored traditional
Iroquois dance attire adorned with ribbons and beads.
Each boy wears a Gustoweh - a head piece
with a specific number of feathers attached to signify a particular
tribe or nation. The girls wear an overdress with a skirt and leggings
made of calico, which represents the time in history after the Iroquois
made contact with the Europeans. Their moccasins are made of buckskin.
The dancers are performing a smoke dance
as part of their repertoire of Iroquois social dances, which are
not ceremonial but are meant for entertainment.
The Young Spirit Dancers of Ganondagan
are seven area Native American teens whose goal is to introduce
their culture and tradition to their peers - when they aren't in
school, working at jobs in area fast-food restaurants, or playing
sports such as soccer and lacrosse.
The dance troupe, formed in 1995, began
as a cultural exchange program with the Pueblo people in New Mexico.
Upon their return, the youths participating in the exchange decided
they wanted to continue to dance and invite more Rochester-area
native youth to join them.
"Our purpose is to learn the culture
and educate the community about Native Americans in their community,
in terms of who we are and what we do," said dancer Craig Marvin.
The teens were noticed on a PBS series
entitled "New York Expeditions" by a woman whose child
attends the Rodeph Sholom School in New York City.
The woman, Barbara Feldman, contacted
the Museum of the American Indian and told them about the group.
The museum hired the dancers for their Children's Festival on May
18 and 19. They will be performing at the Rodeph Sholom School on
Monday, May 20, as well.
The group members say they are looking
forward to seeing the sights, such as Central Park and WWF New York,
during their free time in New York.
"I grew up like many of these kids,"
said Jeanette Miller, program director for the Spirit Dancers. "I
was in the same situation as most of them, not really exposed to
the Native American tradition and culture."
Miller says that while the task of director
can be hectic at times, she feels her time with the group is well
"Their self-esteem is nothing I had
at their age. I'm very proud of them and what they've accomplished,"
The dancers will be performing at the
George Eastman House on July 13 for Family Day and at Ganondagan's
Native American Dance and Music Festival on July 27 and 28.