American Indian Dance Theatre | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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American Indian Dance Theatre

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Sometimes I think that spirituality, animism, and ritual have no place on the concert stage. Then I remember Ralph Lemon's Sleep, which was excruciatingly spiritual; Swan Lake, in which a woman becoming a bird has tragic and transcendent overtones; and the painstaking placement of pebbles and rocks in Jan Erkert's ritualistic solo for Suet May Ho, Turn Her White With Stones. I guess it depends on whose rituals they are. Now that everyone has an opinion on what "belongs" onstage--from Arlene Croce's attempt to banish "victim art" to Ron Athey's endorsement of public displays of sadomasochism--the issues are especially confused. Native American dance was never intended to be staged; whether social or religious it's a participatory communal form. So in one sense it's artificial and possibly condescending to put onstage dances that initiate young men into the tribe or pay reverence to the birds and animals that provide food and clothing. On the other hand would we want these dances to be lost or not performed for larger audiences? No. And American Indian Dance Theatre, some 20 top Native American dancers, drummers, and singers, is a fine way to see these art forms. Here, one night only, they'll perform three winter dances--one from the southwestern United States, an initiation dance from British Columbia, and a suite of social dances from the northeast and Canada--plus a Plains Suite featuring men's and women's traditional and fancy dances. Friday at 8 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; $12.50-$35. Call 902-1500 for tickets and info, 431-2357 for group sales.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Don Perdue.

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