Film will transmit message, traditions of powwow dancing

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Feb 28, 2013

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F ilmmakers are joining forces for the first movie depicting Native American life within the powwow circuit.

"Dance Hard" is "a narrative film about two boys growing up on a reservation in South Dakota," according to Director-Producer-Writer Megan Johnson of Mama Simba Films.

She said the two main characters are 18-year-old brothers, one Native and one Non-Native, named Louis and Joe Thundercloud.

They grew up on a reservation that doesn't offer them much opportunity, and they both want to go to college but lack the funds.

So in an effort to raise the money to attend college, they both go on the powwow trail as fancy dancers. Fancy dancing is arguably the most popular category in powwow and features some of the most athletic dancers.

Johnson said this is an "on the road" movie, and while they are on the road "they confront bigotry, love, and they learn from their relatives the true meanings of tradition and powwow dancing."

"They kind of find their own path in life," she said. "It's a unique story all in the backdrop of powwow dancing and we're really proud of it."

Renowned Native American powwow fancy dancers Norman Roach (Lakota) of Gallup, N.M. and Robert "Tree" Cody (Salt River Pima and Dakota) of Big Bear Lake, Calif. are consultants for powwow dancing and traditions within the movie. Johnson said they are very respected in their field and she is happy to be working with them on this project.

"It's about time," Roach said about a film that showcases powwow dancing. "I'm just happy to be apart of it."

"I want the real truth of the powwow circuit to be out there," Cody said.

Roach and Cody said they have both been dancing since they were kids beginning in the mid-1950s, and they've both witnessed powwow dancing first hand and have seen it change over the years.

Roach said he hopes they will be able to include as much Native American culture within the movie as possible because it is "not only just the dancing but also messages we give about our values, values of our culture."

"We want to make sure that this movie is done right. Show the pride and dignity of the powwow," said Cody. "To open the eyes to the non-Native community, to let them know what we really are all about. We are going to try to depict the powwow correctly."

"The message (is) dance hard, dance hard for your people, dance hard for people who can't dance, dance hard for your elders, dance hard for your youth," Roach said. "I think it will really bring home the message to why we dance."

Roach and Cody are also on helping with the casting, and are on the lookout for dancers that will fit the main roles of the film.

"I am of the opinion that this film must be authentic, especially when choosing the right people to fill in the character roles," Roach said. "I think that powwow people can, and will do the job because they have already proven in other films that there is a lot of talent from the powwow circle.

"We will be inviting people from all over the powwow world to participate, especially during the powwow scenes that we would produce for the movie. We will definitely be showcasing some good dancing and singing during the filming."

Roach said a four-day powwow is being planned now for the coming months, and this is where dancers are invited to participate and showcase their talents.

Right now "Dance Hard" is still in the funding stage, and Johnson said she hopes they will be able to start casting by the summer and shooting by the fall of this year.

"It's such an important story to tell about the tradition and what it means to dance," she said.

Johnson said they plan on filming the whole movie in New Mexico, and they are inviting all dancers to participate in auditions.

"This is the first time a movie has really been all about powwow dancing, said Johnson.

"We really want to show the importance and tradition."


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