Delwin Fiddler Jr and Vaughnda Hilton and their Native Nations Dance Theatre troupe are performing Native American dances at Adnec's Summer in Abu Dhabi. Q How did Native Nations Dance Theatre start and what is the objective of the company? A Vaughnda: I founded the group almost 11 years ago. I started it because there are about 700 native tribes throughout North, Central, and South America. These natives are still there and our culture is still there. We try to spread that knowledge among people who may or may not know that Native people are still in North America and that they were traditionally the first people of North America. We do lectures, dance performances and workshops to educate people and preserve our heritage through Native Nations Dance Theatre. We want to share the culture with the people and explain to them that we're keeping our culture alive and passing it on to younger generations.
Delwin, you founded Lakota Son Enterprises to educate people on Native American heritage. What inspired you? When we were young, I was not taught to speak about the language or culture. In the States they're trying to get rid of the language you know: "don't speak it, you can't speak it". My elders were always telling me don't do it, you're going to get yourself in trouble. It was all about safety. But today I tell them it's a different world now. I know you went through that time, but there is a new day. So one day I was sitting on the reservation and thinking: "What positive things can I do? What can I give?" I was 15 when I made my decision to use art, [song and dance] and try to preserve traditions. I travelled with other artists and learnt how to hoop dance and sing and play flute. All anyone needs is support and opportunity and then you make your dream come alive.
What kind of dances will you be performing in Abu Dhabi? Vaughnda: We'll perform several different kinds. There's the chicken dance, which is from the Blackfeet people in Montana. The dancers imitate the way the prairie chicken moves. The prairie chickens in Montana, the males do all the work for the nest, most birds it's the other way around, the women do all the work! So the men come out and they show their moves, how they're getting the nest together in there, and showing how fancy they are. It's a rooster strut if you will. A lot of the dances in native culture revolve around the animals that we live with.
Fiddler: It's a "choose me, choose me, choose me" kind of dance. Hilton: We'll also perform the "grass dance", which is from the Omaha people, a northern plains tribe. The grass dancers traditionally would be the first dancers to come into the dance arena. Their job is to literally press the grass down for the other dancers. Delwin: We're the human lawnmowers. What do you hope the children that see your performance will get out of it?
Vaughnda: We just want the kids to have fun. We want them to experience our culture but also to just have a good time. We hope to work in some dances where the children can participate with us. There's a round dance we do and its one of the ways we say thank you and celebrate friendship. The dance goes in and out, it goes around in a circle, it goes the other way. It's fun and they have to watch the lead dancer, kind of like Simon Says.
Native Nations Dance Theatre will appear daily in the Cultural Island in Adnec until August 15. The carnival is open daily from 2pm-10pm and entry is Dh40 for adults and Dh30 for children under 12. Tickets are available at the door. For more information visit www.summerinabudhabi.com or call 800 5555.