Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pow-wow


I took my Dream cast to a pow-wow which the Washo nation was hosting for Father's Day. Although I'm the foreigner, it seemed to be a new experience for them as well - very few Americans seem to have much contact with or knowledge of indigenous cultures.

To begin with, it seemed a bit like a village fete - although the stalls were selling sage sticks for smudging ceremonies and dream-catchers rather than home-made cakes and gigantic marrows. Once the dancing started, however, it was an extraordinary experience. The music came from a group of men around a huge drum, beating it together and singing in a very high voice, which seems somehow to be produced by tightening the throat - it's not falsetto. The sound is very mesmerising, and deliberately unvaried. Dancing to this sound, in their incredible bright costumes, people can easily move into a trance-like state: and of course that is the purpose of many First Nations dances - they help us to contact some other state. We were invited to have a go at the round dance ourselves - it's not exactly difficult.... you just face into the big circle and move sideways in time with the drum.... but the repetitiveness, even of this simple step, does take you into a slightly altered consciousness.

Under a clear night sky, with a nearly full moon, the landscape came alive.

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