Summer@Eastman 2020: THE UNBROKEN CIRCLE Native American Song and Dance Workshop

January 16, 2020


Hand-Drum Singers at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario. Photo credit: Esther Vincent, Peterborough, Ontario

Daystar/Rosalie Jones is the founder and Artistic Director of DAYSTAR Dance Company, founded in 1980, the first dance company in the U.S. created with all-native performers and specializing in the portrayal of the personal and tribal stories of Indian America. The company has toured throughout the United States and Canada, Germany, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Daystar/Rosalie Jones was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and is of Pembina Chippewa ancestry. She holds a Master’s degree in Dance from the University of Utah with postgraduate work at the Juilliard School in New York City. This summer, Rosalie will offer a Native American Song and Dance Workshop as part of Summer@Eastman 2020.


by Daystar/Rosalie Jones

I am pleased and honored to offer, for the first time, a Native American Song and Dance workshop as part of the Eastman School Summer institutes. As Native American custom requires, a teacher must acknowledge the original sources, those with whom one studied, in order that the ‘passing down’ of tradition preserve its lineage through many generations.

My original teachers were those Intertribal powwow drummers, singers and dancers whom I observed as part of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana; thereafter, I saw and heard many such practitioners, young and old, as they sang and danced in their specific tribal forms across North America – Plains, Northwest Coast, the Southwest, the Midwest and the Far North.

My first ‘academic’ teacher of Indigenous music was Dr. Charlotte Heth (Cherokee), who chaired the Department of Ethnomusciology at UCLA and later went on to do the same work at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  In an extended seminar with Dr. Heth, I learned that early American methods for Indigenous song recording and preservation sometimes ignored essential native custom and intention in favor of purely academic analysis. As a follow-up, she then taught selected dance songs in their proper context. As might be expected, that is the way I teach – recognizing song and dance, whether traditional or contemporary, as culturally-inspired and formulated.

Two other instructors need to be acknowledged. While a faculty member at the Institute of American Arts in Santa Fe, NM, Karen Strong (Tlingit/Haida), was encouraged to create a Northwest Coast Dance Ensemble to develop a deeper understanding of her people.  As a member of the Ensemble, I learned several appropriate song and dance sets and performed in the proper attire with Northwest Coast Dance Blankets, vests, aprons, gloves and head crowns.  You will be learning these songs and dances as part of my workshop.

The most celebrated of my teachers, however, was the late Dr. Louis Ballard, (Quapaw/Cherokee). Dr. Ballard was a classically-trained pianist as well as conductor of symphony orchestras and a prolific composer. He originated the music program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and today is well-known for his Native American song and dance collections as well as the notation of such music for educators. I will be using one of his publications “Native American Indian Songs” as an authentic tribal and academic resource.

Louis Ballard with his native instrument collection. Photo credit: Mark Coffey, Liberty Sun-News, Liberty, MO

I will be happy to welcome each and every one of you who will be attending my workshop “The Unbroken Circle” this summer.  We will use traditional native ‘hand drums’ for singing. We will learn both games and dances that need songs as their accompaniment. We may compose our own songs as time permits!  Throughout the week, songs and dances will be framed for western analysis and how Native American music can best be utilized in our educational systems. My primary purpose, however, will be to teach from a historical and cultural context so that the presence of Indigenous sensibility and intent can be clearly recognized in these artistic forms of song and dance.

Daystar/Rosalie Jones at Salish-Koontenai Reservation Powwow. Photo credit: courtesy of Daystar Dance Company


The Unbroken Circle workshop will be offered during the week of July 13-17, 2020, Monday-Friday, 1-4 p.m., plus an evening concert on Friday. For more details, please visit the workshop’s web page at: