October 27, 2009

Performing Fashion

(La Renaissance Indigéne, Heard Museum. Dancer/choreographer Rulan Tangen; costumes and paint designs by Virgil Ortiz; hair by Edgar Soto and Tressa diGiorgio, 2004. Photo by Larry Price (Navajo). Image featured in Native Peoples Magazine.)

The connection between fashion and performance is an ancient one in Indigenous communities - Native peoples have long created special attire, and painted their bodies, for dance events or ceremonies.

Today this connection may be most evident in the Native American powwows of North America. Here, thousands of dancers, from tiny tots to golden age elders, recreate performance attire, both reflecting and re-defining traditional dance regalia (a future post to come).

In addition to this powwow world, there are several other movements of Native fashion and dance, including that which pulls from hip hop culture (again, a future post to come), but also that which feeds off of modern performance dance aesthetics.

(Photos by Anthony "Thosh" Collins (Pima/Osage/Seneca-Cayuga) for King Galleries.
The model is noted violinist, Quetzal Guerrero, whom Virgil Ortiz has painted to represent his clay figures.

At the forefront of this movement to combine modern dance with global Indigenous dance is Dancing Earth. Headed up by the well-known dancer/choreographer Rulan Tangen (Metis), Dancing Earth has worked with Cochiti fashion designer Virgil Ortiz for multiple events including fashion shows and gallery exhibition openings. Below is a clip featuring the dancers of Dancing Earth, body paint and fashion styling by Virgil Ortiz, and cinematography by Blackhorse Lowe (Navajo). This is truly contemporary Indigenous dance: