DANCE REVIEW : American Indians in Authentic Program

The American Indian Dance Theatre, seen Thursday at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, retains the power and integrity that had made one cheer its formation a year ago.

The 23-member troupe, directed by Hanay Geiogamah and Raoul Trujillo, was created to present in a theatrical setting a wide range of authentic tribal dances and songs usually available only to those able to travel to a number of different reservations.

Adding virtuosity to authenticity, the company includes a roster of competition winners.

It would be easy to single out the sure-fire crowd pleasers. Eddie Swimmer fluidly, masterfully executed the ingenious, bravura living sculptures of the Hoop Dance. Four warriors--Saunders BearsTail Jr., Philip Kaiyou, Marty Pinnecoose and Norman Roach--triumphed in the increasingly flashy and challenging solos in the Fancy Dance Contest.


But precisely what gives this company its added uncommon measure of dignity and universality is its embodiment of simple moments and gestures and its inclusion of a wider range of the human family than usually seen in theatrical dance groups.

Thus, when the elder Dorothy Mahooty ritually purifies the stage by sprinkling perhaps grain or water at cardinal points to Chester Mahooty’s soaring vocalism and drum beats, the result could be mesmerizing.

There were a few quibbles. On second viewing, the Eagle Dance may have been too cluttered--with seven dancers--for maximum impact. Some of the frame story-telling elements and theatricalized moments--darkly and moodily lit by Jeffrey McRoberts--still do not read all that clearly.

One also missed the moving prayer ceremony that had opened the company’s first appearance in Los Angeles last June. One regretted, too, that the drummers and singers were not always present on the Ambassador stage to add their devotional concentration.

But with the company’s authoritative commitment and its sensational ceremonial costumes, American Indian Dance Theatre offers a rare, illuminating theater experience.