NORMAN — They began with the story of the flute and told how a young man in love crafted the instrument from a tree branch, so that its song might be a gift and win his bride.
Captivated, hundreds of little ears listened to the story, and children stared as drums beat and Oklahoma Fancy Dancers twirled, stomped and moved to the words of a foreign language.
McKinley Elementary School hosted the Oklahoma Fancy Dancers, a professional Native American dance group based out of the Oklahoma City area, who performed on Friday and educated students about Native American heritage.
The Fancy Dancers provide an educational and entertaining glimpse of Native American culture through its narration, dance, music and storytelling. All of the group’s performers are enrolled Native Americans and represent many different tribes of Oklahoma. In addition, each performer is a renowned champion dancer and is recognized throughout the United States and Canada as a major competitor on the powwow dance circuit.
Kricket Rhoads Connywerdy, Oklahoma Fancy Dancers troupe member, said learning the dances and songs the Fancy Dancers perform takes a lot of time, practice and energy.
“None of this is taught in school at the present time, so being asked to share their knowledge of their culture in a positive way is encouragement for them to continue this hard work outside of all the other school and extra curricular activities,” Kricket said.
The Fancy Dancers described their brightly colored, intricate clothing to students and pointed out eagle plumes on the women’s clothing style and a head piece known as a roach, which is made from porcupine hair, on the warrior’s clothing style.
“Their clothing is all handmade and worth thousands of dollars,” Kricket said.
Twirling and hopping, with her shawl of a dozen bright colors extended as if it gave her wings, Angelyn Connywerdy, a sixth-grader at Alcott Middle School, performed the Fancy Shawl Dance, which told a story of a butterfly and mourning. Angelyn said she performs because she wants to carry on tradition and that she likes traveling the world.
“I’ve been dancing since I was really little. I’ve been to the Netherlands and Germany,” Angelyn said. “I want to learn more songs and keep dancing, maybe learn the Jingle Dress Dance or the Hoop Dance.”
Performed by Kevin Connywerdy, the Hoop Dance moved quickly as hoops intertwined to create shapes like that of an alligator, horse and globe. Students said besides the Hoop Dance, the Men’s Fancy Dance was another one of their favorite performances, which involved exciting, fast and energetic movements.
Performers represented a variety of tribes, such as Kiowa, Comanche, Caddo, Delaware, Otoe and Cherokee tribes and McKinley students included Shon Perez, fourth-grader; Isaac Perez, kindergartner; Alex Poolaw, pre-k; Tabe Poolaw, third-grader; Thaumaroi Connywerdy, kindergartner; and Sokobi Connywerdy, third-grader. John Kemble, a Ponca tribe member, played drums and sang with each dancer’s performance. Kricket said Kemble is a top singer in the world for Southern tribal songs and should be considered a national treasure.
“We hope students learned we are just like them. We just maintain a connection to our heritage,” Kricket explained. “The point of the program was to dispel stereotypes by showing the students who we are and that some of their friends are performers, too.”
The Oklahoma Fancy Dancers will perform the Friday of Norman Public Schools spring break at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, and Connywerdy encourages the public to attend.
For more information about the upcoming performance, call Sam Noble Museum at 325-4712.
For more information about bookings, call Kevin Connywerdy at 360-2532 or email kricketandkevin
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