World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Four Winds & Sweet Water Singers

Dance Origin: Native American Plains
Native American
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1995

Every Native song, dance, and gesture is an expression of Native American heritage and life rooted in an ancient past. Although these Plains dances are social, they are also actions of deep spiritual significance, the embodiment of prayers to the Creator, danced regularly at inter-tribal powwows throughout the United States. Some of the songs and yells, called vocables, come from harmonized prayer. The drumbeat is the heartbeat of all living things. Dancers wear traditional regalia, representing nature and spiritual connection. The clothing is hand-stitched from porcupine hair, quills, seed beads, brain-tanned elk leather, angora hides, eagle feathers, satin, and animal skins. Feathers represent an eagle’s strength, and shows that the dancer is in conversation with the Creator.

Tony Fuentes and Edwardo Madril founded Four Winds Native American Dance, celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. The company presents dance and culture of the United States Plains Indian tribes from Southern Canada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, performing throughout the western United States. Eddie presents residencies in Bay Area schools, encouraging appreciation and respect for Native American dance, music, cultural history, art, and sign language. He has taught Native American music at SFSU, and was a three-year recipient of the California Arts Council Artist-in-Residence grant. In 2008, he was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Best Individual Performance of the year.


TITLE: Spear and Shield Dance, Fancy Dance, Northern Traditional Dance, Hoop Dance
Tony Fuentes, Eddie Madril, Marcos Madril
Dirk Alphin, John-Carlos Perea, Luke Taylor

Four Winds presents four dances from the North American Plains: the Spear and Shield Dance, a dance of a warrior preparing for battle; the Hundred Year Fancy Dance, a dance of victory; the Northern Traditional Dance, danced by a warrior to relate his hunting experience; and the Hoop Dance. Some say the Hoop Dance was given to a dying man from the Northern Plains who wanted a gift to leave behind. The Creator gave him a series of wooden hoops, one for each living thing he created. In the Southwest, it is said cliff-dwelling children practiced this dance for dexterity.

Edwardo Madril describes the Hoop Dance as both an ancient and contemporary story of creation. The dancer begins with a single hoop, evoking the circle of life, with no beginning and no end; the circle through which the first humans arrived; a single cell; the circle of day and night; the Krebs cycle; the shape of birds nests, of the strongest winds and waters, and of animals' burrows. Next, two hoops represent man and woman; day and night; cold and hot; and the balance of life. The third hoop represents the birth of new life, and four hoops evoke stages of life, four seasons, and four natural colors and four directions. The dance continues to add circle upon circle, representing all living beings, and from a single cell, comes one sphere—our living world.

Traditional live music by Dirk Alphin, John-Carlos Perea­ – GRAMMY® Award winner for Best New Age Album in 2007 – and Luke Taylor of Sweet Water Singers accompanies Four Winds for this Festival performance.


Edwardo Madril brings his skills as a Native American dancer and educator, as well as his collaborative spirit, to help create and perform narrative interludes for Weekend Two of the 2006 Festival. His work, along with that of Amanda Geroy and Niharika Mohanty, lend a unique perspective to the idea of Place, and tie together dances from around the globe, performed here in Northern California.

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