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Dennis Lee Rogers returns with his Spirit Dancer Tour


Dennis Lee Rogers returns with his Spirit Dancer Tour

a report by David and Valerie Forster

American Studies Today Online

The celebrated Navajo artist and educator Dennis Lee Rogers paid a welcome return visit to Merseyside last year, and this is an account of a memorable performance he gave at the Pavilion Theatre, Rhyl.

Posted 9th December 2005

Dennis on stage at the Rhyl Pavilion Theatre. Click on each picture to see a larger version.
Dennis with Misty, the grey owl
Hoop dance
Dennis in full Navajo regalia
Dennis in full Navajo regalia
Dennis in full Navajo regalia
Dennis in full Navajo regalia
Dennis in full Navajo regalia
Dennis in full Navajo regalia
Ryder and James

In conjunction with Liverpool Museums, the ASRC again acted as host for a visit and performance from the renowned Navajo artist and educator Dennis Lee Rogers. Dennis first visited Liverpool over five years ago and his return provided another opportunity for an audience the ranged from pensioners, followers of Native American issues, and students from all levels of education, to hear Dennis discuss issues that impacted on life on the reservations for Native Americans and his own personal experiences. Now acting as an official ambassador for the Navajo Nation, Dennis also gave a demonstration of traditional Navajo Dance (including the famous ‘Hoop’ dance) as well as Navajo songs. An imposing figure dressed in traditional dress, Dennis entranced his audience with his performance and provided a real sense of the richness of Navajo tradition and culture.

Dennis is equally at home on the stage or in the lecture theatre or classroom. Valerie and I were privileged to see him perform at the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl during his present tour. This was a return visit, and many of his fans from previous tours were in the audience. They were not disappointed.

He began the show by demonstrating his love of wildlife. He walked onto a plain, black stage, with beautiful grey owl called Misty on his arm. He spoke lovingly about its life and habitat, then took the owl off and returned with a flute and drums to perform a series of traditional Navajo songs.

Powerful and moving

In the second half, Denis was resplendent in his Navajo regalia and costume and performed a number of powerful and energetic dances to traditional music. He also spoke of his love of country music, and told us a very moving story about the lead singer of a country group who had recently died of cancer, and how he had been invited to perform with the remaining two musicians in a tribute, and how he felt that the spirit of the departed singer was so powerfully with them that even the roadies were moved to tears. He performed the dance to the music of their song, “Spirit Dancer”, an incredibly powerful and moving experience.

Throughout the show, Dennis paid tribute to his father, who had been his inspiration and mentor throughout his life, and who had died at the beginning of the year. He spoke of the importance of this relationship, which was reinforced by his choice of support group, Ryder and James, a father-and-son country music duo from Wrexham.
Altogether it was an inspirational evening, which emphasised the universality of Dennis’s appeal.

Dennis first came to Liverpool in 1999, and gave a memorable weekend at Burton Manor Residential College in Cheshire, based on the theme of the Dancing Ground. You can read the account which we wrote about it.

You can read more about Dennis Lee Rogers and keep up-to-date with his programme on his MySpace page

Related topics

From War to Self-Determination: A history of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
this article traces its development from attempts to obtain tribal neutrality during the Revolutionary War in 1775, through the assimilation policy of the late 1800's to the modern policy of Self-Determination.

The Native American Peoples of The United States
Christopher Brookman looks at the way in which native American culture and values have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by mainstream American society. He examines the conflict between their traditional values and pervasive commericalism, and the debates over assimilation versus cultural identity.

The Dancing Ground

David and Valerie Forster describe a day course in Navajo culture which Dennis conducted at a local adult education college. This is a revised version of an article which was first published in 1999.



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