Flint Cultural Center Corporation in Flint, Michigan, presented Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble in November 2009.
This Performing Arts Fund–supported engagement featured a performance of Drum is Thunder, Flute is the Wind by the Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble and included a week-long residency with local students. Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble offers a rich variety of Native American traditions in dance, instruments, song, storytelling, and sign language. Kevin Locke, a National Heritage Fellowship award winner, is a foremost expert in Native American hoop dancing and flute.
“All of the people have the same impulses, spirits, and goals. Through my music and dance, I want to create a positive awareness of the oneness of humanity.” -– Artist Kevin Locke
The presentation of Drum is Thunder, Flute is the Wind was one of two performances in The Whiting’s Rhythms of the World series. This series, now in its third year, was developed after Flint Cultural Center Corporation was a participant in Arts Midwest World Fest, a program of Arts Midwest that presents international musical ensembles in intensive week-long residencies. This method of introducing the community to new cultural experiences through a week-long residency was a new venture for the organization, and has now become an important part of their activities.
During the days prior to the performance, Kevin Locke Dance Ensemble presented a performance and 10 educational activities to students in local schools. Five of the activities were held in high-poverty, at-risk elementary schools in the Flint School District, where 89–93% of the students qualify for free- or reduced-cost lunch. Outreach was also extended to students at the Michigan School for the Deaf. Flint Cultural Corporation provided all of these residency activities free of charge to the participating schools, along with subsidizing bus transportation.
Kevin Locke and Doug Goodfeather led these educational activities, teaching the students Native American phrases, sign language, and performing a song-and-hoop dance. The artists showed respect to each student and the students retuned this respect to the artists. Kevin Locke told the students to be proud of their cultural heritage and to celebrate diversity. During the residency at the Michigan School for the Deaf, the artists created a visual interaction with these students by showing them their costumes and playing the drum, and as they taught the students Native American sign language, they discovered similarities between American Sign Language and Native American sign language. When Kevin performed the hoop dance, he discussed how the hoops were like the stairway to life and, if one color is taken out, the stairway it is broken. He then discussed how we all need each other in life. This residency was like a lesson in a book that came to life and it reminded the students to embrace diversity.
“With Kevin Locke’s longstanding mastery of traditional Lakota music and dance and the added vitality of dances and songs from the varied traditions of the ensemble performers, there simply is no other show like it! Participation in cultural programs is such an important component of a rich quality of life. These activities provided a perspective on our cultural heritage [and] the opportunity to learn from the past; to stimulate our sense of discovery, appreciation for creativity, and innovation; to make educational experiences more dynamic and engaging; and to nurture our ability to express ourselves and understand a broad array of human experiences. Arts Midwest is helping provide these benefits to our community that might otherwise not have such opportunities.” -– Michael Terry, Director of The Whiting
This engagement was a Star Project that engaged a performing artist from the Midwest and deepened participation with a community-based residency.