Every culture dances , which like music is a universal language which all can understand. What are you saying to the people watching you dance?
~ When I dance it makes me happy, it pushes my limits and helps me to express myself in a way no one can duplicate, but I don't just dance for myself, I dance for my family, friends, ancestors, community. For the gift of life and the privilege to have the ability to do it. When I dance Ladies Fancy Shawl I skip and hop and glide as gracefully as I can to represent a beautiful butterfly. Whom has fire and passion behind each step to represent change, movement and every lasting life.
Can you explain the style in which you dance?
~ Women's Fancy Shawl is a contemporary style Indigenous American dance. You don a shawl, yoke, dress or skirt, leggings and moccasins for your outfit. Usually beadwork from head to toe is also expressed in the regalia as well. The dance was established around the 1950's when the tribes from out west were trying to bring in more revenue from spectators men and women got together and created the Fancy dance, at first it was like the Men's Fancy Dance today, except the bustles were smaller and the steps were not as intense. After a while the women were getting so good they kept showing up the men. After a while the women established women's fancy shawl with using shawls instead of bustles and are still used till this day. The foot steps are leaping, bounding, kicking, gliding and sliding, and twirling to the beat of the drum. When put all together the movement can look like a butterfly skipping a crossed a pond.
The regalia that you wear while dancing is absolutely stunning and seems quite complex. Do you make/design everything you wear?
~ I create my own designs and outfits, I always have ideas that I want to turn into a reality when it comes to outfits. I like to believe that my regalia is forever changing.
Where inspires you when creating a piece of beadwork?
~ When it comes to my outfits the sunrise and sunset inspires me in a big way, its always changing and never the same. I also make beadwork for other folks who are seeking my help and I love to take their visions and turn them into life for the look on their face is priceless to me.
What is your favorite thing to bead? A custom medalion, earrings, a piece of clothing?
~ I have lots of fun with medallions because it represents that person in some fashion or form. It's fairly quick to make it so I can always move onto a new vision that I thought up, I love change and really dislike repeating beadwork over and over again, its quit boring for me and I lose interest.
Paintings seem to adorn clothing, enhance a personal item or tell a story with in native communities. How does your Abenaki heritage translate into your paintings on canvas?
~ The reason why I'm so obsessed with sunrises and sunsets is because not only are they breath taking, and a masterpiece of a painting in its own way but the Abenaki are known as the "People of the Dawn" so that just naturally ties into my inspirations.
You currently have an exhibit at the institute for American indian Studies that show a wide range of your craft. Can you bring us through the process of selecting/creating pieces for the exhibit?
~ Each item you can use for dancing at a powwow but also you can use for everyday use as well. The purse is pretty self explanatory, its a purse but fully beaded with floral design on it. The blue medallion with the blue appaloosa on it represents a horse lover, but can be rocked out with someones regalia as well. The earrings can be warn for every day use as well, or can be used to dance with as well.
With so many art forms under your belt are than any that you will be learning in the future?
~ Of course I would love to learn more, I am hoping to; such as basket weaving, quill working, quilt making. Thats just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to learn I would be a fool to think that I am happy and content with just beading and sewing. I mean even that has room for improvement as well.
It takes several steps to create art from a vision, to planning, to producing often connecting with a piece and projecting a bit of yourself into it. What feelings or emotions do you want to invoke in the Abenaki and non-indigenous communities.
~ I like to think I invasion happy and good vibes into my work. Sometimes fierceness and dramatic to get a message a crossed like "look out! Here I come!" but always and truly good vibes.
Through out the history of the united states and into modern times there have been natives who served along side or in branches of military. Many of our friends and families have fought in recent and present conflicts and/or served in peace times. What can you tell us about serving our country as an Abenaki?
~ I serve because it was a fulfillment that needed to be part of my life. My Grandfather served as a Submarine Electric Engineer during WWII, my Dad served in the military for a very long time too and did two tours in Vietnam. I have imbedded in me a sense of honor, pride, loyalty to serve my family, friends, community and country. It makes me happy to know that I contribute to protecting my family and friends to the fullest, its in my blood.
~ Since the day I started dancing you are always looking to perfect you regalia, you want to be the one who sticks out in the dance circle bc of your dance style and your fresh outfit. Its expensive though if you have someone make your outfit, so I took matter into my own hands and started beading and sewing. All self taught, so trust me when I had my trials and errors, but thats the best way to learn for me at least.
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