The premiere performances of Spirit Dance, a new theatrical production that hopes to do for Native American culture what Riverdance has done for Irish culture, apparently went so well that Hollywood Records has decided to release a live recording of the show. Producers are also considering accelerating a U.S. tour in order to keep the present company intact.
Weaving said PBS filmed the show Aug. 7, the same night critics attended the performance. The distracting presence of camera crews didn't prevent the show from earning positive reviews, and the excitement generated by the production was such that Hollywood Records -- which has already released a Spirit Dance CD -- has decided to issue a new, live recording of the show. No release date has been set.
"It went beyond anyone's wildest dreams," said spokesperson Susan Weaving. Spirit Dance made its debut Aug. 7 & 9 at the 2,200 seat Weidner Center in Green Bay, WI. A wider audience will get a glimpse of the show in March 1999 when the Green Bay performance will be broadcast as a PBS pledge special. Spokesman Peter Holmes a Court of Back Row Productions, which is producing the show, said (May 26) the video was partly intended to stir interest in the show, fueling the tour. The tape will also be available for purchase.
Also, Weaving said choreographer Wayne Cilento has become adamant that the present company be kept together. Originally, plans called for show to be remounted in 1999 following the airing of the PBS special. Producers are now looking into possible touring engagements to keep the show going.
The show is intended to eventually reach Broadway at a date and theatre TBA, according to show spokesman Adrian Bryan-Brown. The show boasts a creative team of disparate talents, including Broadway veteran choreographer Cilento (The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed...). The show's composer, Peter Buffett, is a Milwaukee-based musician whose credits include the film soundtracks Dances With Wolves and The Scarlet Letter. Chief Hawk Pope, meanwhile, in addition being lyricist, vocalist and musical collaborator on the project, is Chief of the Shawnee remnant tribe.
Spirit Dance features a cast of 70 in a fervent display of Native American dancing and drumming, including 20 contemporary and traditional dancers, percussionists, musicians, traditional vocalists and the Green Bay Oneida Nation Girls Choir.
Holmes a Court said the show would not incorporate sacred dances but instead create new dances in the Native-American tradition. Though several tribal styles of dance and music are represented in the show, the predominant language is Shawnee.
-- By Robert Simonson