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Spirit - A Journey in Dance, Drums and Song

1998 | 75 minutes

Combining music, dance, and Native American myths, this program is a pastiche and celebration of the variety of American's Pre-Columbian cultures. An interesting contrast with modern urban life is made with the program's opening "Urban Overture", a dance number with a modern flavor. A highly regarded look at human cultures and spirituality. Introduced by Kevin Costner

Weaving Native American mythology, music, dance, and rituals into a stage presentation augmented for television and home video, Spirit: A Journey in Dance, Drums, and Song suggests a New World counterpart to Riverdance, aimed at the same audience that made Bill Whelan's Celtic extravaganza a programming staple for PBS fund drives and a perennial seller in music and home video

Both projects also share substantial links to New Age music and mysticism. Buffett, who has focused on such a fusion in prior music, video, and multimedia projects, uses his core ensemble of synthesizers and conventional rhythm section to provide orchestral drama and sweep to the largely minor-keyed score. Native American flutes, percussion, and chant provide the music's evocative sense of identity, while Chief Hawk Pope's narration underlines the production's yearning for a simpler age of harmony with nature, while framing the dance sequences with various tribal legends

As directed and choreographed by Wayne Cilento, the pieces pointedly begin with an "Urban Overture" in which members of the troupe, dressed in suits, evoke the regimentation and discord of the modern world, punctuated with chirping cell phones, car horns, and mechanical rhythms. Gradually, group and lead dancers loosen up both visually and stylistically to convey more fluid movement. In addition to those members combining ballet and jazz movements with elements of tribal dance, Cilento employs vividly costumed Native American dancers, much as Buffett strategically deploys costumed native musicians and chorus. Extensive use of montage allows natural symbols and scenes to be grafted over the stage-bound elements of the 75-minute performance. Ethnomusicologists may regard this as something of a pastiche, but that's probably the point--Spirit is designed as a romantic, pan-tribal evocation of the continent's pre-European culture and beliefs

Earlier Event: March 4
Groovin’ Down the Silk Road
Later Event: March 7
Community Music Jam