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Dances, history focus of NASA's program

Jan. 24, 2001

Students from a variety of tribes participate in show



The pounding of drums echoed at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Bennett Auditorium when members of the Native American Student Association delivered a performance for more than a hundred students.

Students explained the origin, meaning, and purpose of each dance. LaRay Guerrero, a Sanger sophomore, says the dances performed were those that are traditionally seen at powwows and other social events.

'Powwow' is the Algonquian word for a communal celebration of feasting, dancing, victory and friendship. Members of the public can attend these gatherings, and powwows across the nation host many tribes.

'We'll be performing social dances, ones that the public can see,' Guerrero said. 'There are also sacred dances, and those can only be seen by our tribe.'

Social dances include war dances, victory dances, round dances, and a two-step dance.

'There are certain dances for men, certain dances for women, round dances where people outside the tribe can participate and an Indian Two-Step, the only couples dance. The two-step is always a ladies' choice, and if a man says no, he has to pay you five dollars,' said Kim Roppolo, a Cherokee-Choctaw-Creek former Baylor teaching assistant who now works at McLennan Community College.

NASA president Jacob Wruck, a Galt, Calif., senior, had red paint painted across his eyes as he and Guerrero performed a 'sneak up' dance that represents warriors preparing to raid an enemy camp. Wruck, a Cherokee, followed tradition by making his own costume.

Lance Tahchawwickah, a University of North Texas student, accompanied the dancers with an elk hide drum and traditional chants. Tahchawwickah, whose name means 'grab something, shake it and choke the life out of it,' grew up speaking Comanche as a first language. He asked the crowd to learn more about their origins.

'Learn where you came from. Your elders have a lot to teach, and you all have a lot to learn,' Tahchawwickah said.

'When I was at Baylor there were days when I've sworn everyone dressed from the same closet,' Roppolo said. She also said she hopes Tuesday night's performance will help encourage students to embrace their individuality.

The performers led the audience in a round dance and then taught couples to perform the two-step.