Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre

2015-2016 Class Acts season sponsored by
Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre
Friday, October 9, 2015
10:00 AM
Dear Educator,
Welcome to Class Acts at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS! We hope this guide will help you expand on
concepts from this particular performance and incorporate them into your classroom teaching, both
before and after the performance. We want students to think of the arts as an integral part of their
lives, not just a one-time isolated event.
Before arriving at the Auditorium, you can prepare your students by helping them understand the story
or by sharing basic information about the performing art form they are going to see. We also ask you to
review the theater etiquette information with your students (found on pages 2-3 of this guide) to help
prepare them for attending a live performance.
After the performance you can talk to your students about their experience. Did they enjoy the
performance? What did they learn? How was the performance different than what they expected?
We hope the information and activity ideas included in this guide will help your students gain a deeper
understanding of the performance they see.
We look forward to seeing you! If you have any questions about these materials, please feel free to
contact me at 217.206.6150 or [email protected]
Amy Zepp
Audience Development Coordinator
Youth programming in the Class Acts series and in conjunction with other Sangamon
Auditorium events is supported in part by the Helen Hamilton Performing Arts
Endowment for Youth Fund, gifts from Elizabeth and Robert Staley, and a grant from the
Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.
Theater Etiquette
Going to a live theatrical performance is different than watching a movie or TV show – the members of
the audience are very important, and the way they behave will affect the performance. Therefore,
theaters have their own special rules about behavior.
Ask the ushers if you need help with anything – The people who wear red coats are volunteer
ushers, and they want to make sure everyone is able to enjoy the performance. They will guide
you to your seat, and they can help you find a restroom. In any emergency situation, the ushers
will help guide your class to safety. There may be as many as 1700 people coming to see the
performance. Please follow the instructions of the ushers at all times.
Turn off and put away cell phones, beeping watches, or anything else that can light up or
make noise – These can be very distracting to the performers and your fellow audience
Do not eat, drink, or chew gum in the auditorium – Even the quietest chewers and slurpers
make a great deal of noise in the auditorium! The noise is very distracting to the performers
and to the other people around you. Also, even if you are very careful, food and drinks can
sometimes make a mess in the auditorium. We try to keep the auditorium as clean as possible
so that it will be just as nice for the next audience.
Never throw anything in the auditorium – This is distracting and dangerous for the performers
and people in the audience.
Do not put your feet on the back of the seat in front of you
Please do not wear a hat inside the auditorium – It is difficult for the people behind you to see
the stage if you’re wearing a hat.
Use the restroom before the performance begins – As soon as your class arrives and is seated
in the auditorium, the teacher can arrange visits to the restroom before the performance
begins. The ushers will help you find the closest restroom. Of course, if you must use the
restroom during the performance, please be as quiet as possible about leaving your seat. Once
you get to the aisle, an usher will help you find the way.
When the lights begin to dim, the performance is beginning –
This tells the audience to stop conversations, get settled in
their seats, and focus their attention on the stage. A person
will come out and make an announcement before the
performance begins. Pay close attention to the
announcement because it might include special instructions
that you will need to remember.
Remember that the overture is part of the performance – If the performance has music in it,
there might be an opening piece of music called an overture before any actors appear on stage.
Give this piece of music the same respect you give the performers by being quiet and attentive
while the overture is played.
Do not take pictures or recordings during the performance – The
flashes can be distracting to performers, and it is against the law to
take pictures or recordings of many performances.
Refrain from talking, whispering, and making noise during the
performance – Remember that live performers can see and hear
you from the stage. It is very distracting to the performers and the other audience members if
you talk during the performance. After all, the audience came to hear the professionals
It’s ok to react to the performance – Spontaneous laughter, applause, and gasps of surprise are
welcome as part of the special connection between the performers and the audience during a
live show. However, shouts, loud comments, and other inappropriate noises are rude and
distracting to the actors and your fellow audience members.
Clap at the appropriate times – If you are enjoying the performance, you can let the performers
know by clapping for them. During a play or musical, you can clap between scenes (during a
blackout) or after songs. During a music concert or dance performance you can clap after each
piece is performed. In a jazz music concert it is ok to clap in the middle of a song when a
musician has finished a solo. If a music ensemble plays a piece with several sections, called
movements, the audience will usually only clap at the very end of all the movements.
The performers will bow when the performance ends – This is called a curtain call. You should
applaud to thank the performers for their hard work, but you should not begin to leave the
auditorium until the curtain call is over and the lights become brighter. If you really enjoyed the
performance, you are welcome to give a standing ovation while you applaud. This is reserved
for performances you feel are truly outstanding!
Respect the hard work of the performers – You may not enjoy every performance you see, but I
hope you will recognize that each performance requires a tremendous amount of dedication on
the part of the performers and those who work backstage. It is polite to keep any negative
comments to yourself until you have left the building.
Class Acts and Common Core
Attendance at any Class Acts event can help teachers meet Common Core Standards. The
clearest example can be found in the Standard for Speaking and Listening, #2:
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including
visually, quantitatively, and orally.
The experience of attending a live performance is a unique format that can greatly enhance a
student’s understanding of an important topic or theme.
Additionally, in the Common Core Standards for Reading, the definition of the word “text” can
be expanded to include non-printed works such as dance, music, theater, and visual arts. This
makes the arts an important part of all standards in the Reading category, at every grade level.
Write to Us!
We would love to hear from you and your students! If your students write about the performance they
saw or create artwork related to it, you are welcome to send it to us via email to [email protected] or
through the mail to
Class Acts
Sangamon Auditorium, UIS
One University Plaza, MS PAC 397
Springfield, IL 62703-5407
We love sharing student work with our Class Acts sponsors, so they can see the impact of their
About Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre
Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre has educated, entertained and enlightened audiences all over the
world for more than three decades. The company communicates the powerful messages and resonance
of Dance and Song in Plains Indian Society – at the center of a living history and oral tradition in
American Indian society. Under the directory of noted choreographer Henry Smith, the company
includes some of the most highly acclaimed Championship performers of the Sioux Nation.
Founded in 1978 on the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, Solaris/Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre began
with the support of traditional Lakota Indian educators, healers, community leaders, championship
powwow dancers, singers and storytellers; and its signature work allows the opportunity for people of
all ages to experience the holistic worldview of the Lakota Sioux through performance, educational
outreach, and original broadcast television programs.
The company has appeared often at the Kennedy Center, and was featured in the opening festivities for
the National Museum of the American Indian, The Millennium Celebration Times Square 2000, at
Universities, Cultural Centers and in reservation and casino settings throughout the United States;
toured West Africa under auspices of the State Department in the 1980s; and performs regularly in New
York City. Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre toured Greece as part of the Cultural Olympiad, performing at
the Kalamata Dance Festival and at the Hellenic Festival, which took place at the Herodion Theatre in
the Acropolis; and has completed extensive cultural exchange tours to Alaska and Hawaii the past two
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About Lakota Sioux Dance
Dance is a central part of the life of the Lakota Sioux people. They dance to express their belief in spirits,
natures, and the relationship of all things to one another. They dance to share traditions. They dance to
honor people. They dance in pow-wows to celebrate their culture. And they dance to enjoy
Native American dancers dance in honor of Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. When they dance to express
their beliefs, to share traditions, or to honor people, all the members of the tribe are part of the dance.
Even the people standing around the circle in which the dances are performing are part of it. Mothers
may hold babies, people may chat and gossip, but everyone helps the dancers by praying and shouting
approval and applauding. In that way, all the members of the tribe participate in the dance.
When the dancers perform in front of audiences in theaters, things are different. The dancers are
sharing their traditions with and telling about their history to nontribal audiences. Since they perform
on a stage rather than in the sacred circle on their reservations, a narrator explains the dances so that
the audience will understand them. When dances are performed for other Lakota Sioux, everyone
understands their meaning because they have grown up participating in them.
At the performance of the Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre, the narrator will explain the meaning of
each dance. He will also discuss important ideas about the history and beliefs of the Lakota Sioux. The
dancers will sometimes sing while they dance. Some members will play the flute and drum. There are
many kinds of dances performed by the Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre. A few of them are described on
these pages.
The Hoop Dance celebrates the way of life of all
Native Americans. One legend says that the hoop
dance is about the sacred circle of life. When a
person does the hoop dance he is acknowledging the
sacred circle and all the things that are connected
within in.
The Women’s Shawl Dance requires dancers to
improvise movement to unusually fast drum beats.
Important in the dance are the women’s fringed
shawls and beaded leggings and moccasins. The
women move their arms to imitate eagles’ wings. The
Women’s Shawl Dance is not a traditional dance. It
was invented in the 1940s and 50s.
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The Women’s Traditional Dance honors women, who represent Mother Earth. In Lakota Sioux
tradition, women are admired as the bringers of peace and harmony.
The Grass Dance is also called the Grass Flattening Dance. The dancers flatten a grassy area
where a special event takes place. In the past, those who performed the dance were admired
because when they danced they cleansed and purified the circle in which they danced. The
movement, in combination with the sweetgrass on the dancers’ leggings, are an offering to the
Earth Mother and to the Great Spirit. Today, dancers wear yarn on their leggings instead of
The Buffalo Dance honors the animal that gave the Lakota Sioux food, shelter, and other means
of survival. This dance was originally performed by members of the Buffalo Society, all of whom
had dreamed of the buffalo in their vision quests.
The Sneak Up Dance reenacts a battle.
The dancers depict warriors stalking
their enemies.
The Eagle Dance is a prayer to the Great
Spirit. The dancer asks for a blessing on
the people as he imitates the soaring of
the eagle, a symbol of the Great Spirit.
The whistle imitates the eagle’s cry.
The Round Dance is one of the most
significant dances in which men and
women dance together. It is related to
the hoop of the nation and the sacred
circle. The Round Dance is a friendship
dance for all people to join in to
complete the sacred circle of life and to
help keep all things on earth in balance.
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History of The Lakota People
The Lakota were originally referred to as
the Dakota when they lived by the Great
Lakes. Encroaching European-American
settlement led them to migrate west from
the Great Lakes region. They later called
themselves the Lakota and were also called
Sioux. They were introduced to horse
culture by the Cheyenne about 1730.
After their adoption of the horse,
šúŋkawakȟáŋ ('dog [of] power/mystery/
wonder'), their society centered on the
buffalo hunt with the horse. There were
estimated to be 20,000 Lakota in the mid18th century. The number has now
increased to about 70,000, of whom about
20,500 speak the Lakota language.
After 1720, the Lakota branch of the Seven Council Fires split into two major sects, the Saône who
moved to the Lake Traverse area on the South Dakota-North Dakota-Minnesota border, and the OglalaSicangu who occupied the James River valley. By about 1750, however, the Saône had moved to the east
bank of the Missouri River, followed 10 years later by the Oglala and Brulé (Sicangu).
The large and powerful Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa villages had prevented the Lakota from crossing
the Missouri for an extended period. After smallpox and other infectious diseases nearly destroyed
these tribes, the way was open for the first Lakota to cross the Missouri into the drier, short-grass
prairies of the High Plains. These Saône, well-mounted and increasingly confident, spread out quickly. In
1765, a Saône exploring and raiding party led by Chief Standing Bear discovered the Black Hills (which
they call the Paha Sapa), first the territory of the Cheyenne. Just a decade later, in 1775, the Oglala and
Brulé also crossed the river. The great smallpox epidemic of 1772-1780 destroyed three-quarters of the
American Indian populations in the Missouri Valley. In 1776, the Lakota defeated the Cheyenne, as the
Cheyenne had earlier defeated the Kiowa. The Cheyenne moved west into the Powder River Country,
and the Lakota gained control of the land which became the center of the Lakota universe.
Initial contacts between the Lakota and the United States, during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of
1804-1806, were marked by a standoff. When Lakota bands refused to allow the explorers to continue
upstream, the Expedition prepared to do battle. More than half a century later, after U.S. forces built
Fort Laramie on Lakota land, officials negotiated the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 with the Lakota and
other numerous Plains tribes to protect emigrant travelers on the Oregon Trail, which crossed their
territory. The Cheyenne and Lakota had raided emigrant parties in part due to competition for
resources, and because of settler encroachment on their lands. Formally, the Fort Laramie Treaty of
1851 acknowledged native sovereignty over the Great Plains in exchange for free passage along the
Oregon Trail, for "as long as the river flows and the eagle flies".
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The government did not enforce the treaty against European-American encroachment. When the Lakota
and other bands attacked settlers and emigrant trains, there was public pressure for the U.S. Army to
punish the tribes. In Nebraska on September 3, 1855, 700 soldiers under American General William S.
Harney avenged the Grattan Massacre by attacking a Lakota village, killing 100 men, women, and
children. Other wars followed; and in 1862-1864, refugees from the "Dakota War of 1862" in Minnesota
fled west to their allies in Montana and Dakota Territory. With increasing settler expansion, war found
the tribes again.
Because the Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota, they objected to mining in the area, which had been
attempted since the early years of the 19th century. In 1868, the U.S. government signed the Fort
Laramie Treaty of 1868, exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. 'Forever' lasted only
four years; when gold was publicly discovered there, an influx of prospectors descended upon the area.
Again, the U.S. reacted to attacks on settlers and miners with military force, abetted by army
commanders such as Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The latter tried to administer a lesson of
noninterference with white policies, resulting in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. General Philip Sheridan
encouraged troops to hunt and kill buffalo as a means of "destroying the Indians' commissary."
The unified Northern Cheyenne led much of the warfare after 1860 on the Plains, along with allied
Lakota and Arapaho bands, which operated independently. They defeated General George Crook's army
at the Battle of the Rosebud, and a week later defeated the U.S. 7th Cavalry in 1876 at the Battle of the
Little Bighorn. Lakota call it the Grease Grass battle. Custer attacked a camp of several tribes, much
larger than he realized. Their combined forces killed 258 soldiers, wiping out the entire Custer battalion
and inflicting more than 50% casualties on the regiment.
Their victory over the U.S. Army would not last, however. The U.S. Congress authorized funds to expand
the army by 2500 men. The reinforced U.S. Army defeated the Lakota bands in a series of battles, finally
ending the Great Sioux War in 1877. The Lakota were eventually confined onto reservations, prevented
from hunting buffalo and forced to accept government food distribution.
In 1877 some of the Lakota bands signed a treaty ceding the Black Hills to the United States. Lowintensity conflicts continued. Fourteen years later, Sitting Bull was killed at Standing Rock reservation on
December 15, 1890. The U.S. Army attacked Spotted Elk (aka Bigfoot), Mnicoujou band of Lakota at the
Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890, at Pine Ridge.
Today, the Lakota are found mostly in the five reservations of western South Dakota: Rosebud Indian
Reservation (home of the Upper Sicangu or Brulé), Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (home of the Oglala),
Lower Brule Indian Reservation (home of the Lower Sicangu), Cheyenne River Indian Reservation (home
of several other of the seven Lakota bands, including the Mnicoujou, Itazipco, Sihasapa and
Oohenumpa), and Standing Rock Indian Reservation (home of the Hunkpapa and also home to people
from many bands). Lakota also live on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana, the
Fort Berthold Indian Reservation of northwestern North Dakota, and several small reserves in
Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Their ancestors fled to "Grandmother's [i.e. Queen Victoria's] Land"
(Canada) during the Minnesota or Black Hills War.
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Large numbers of Lakota live in Rapid City and other towns in the Black Hills, and in metro Denver.
Lakota elders joined the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) to seek protection
and recognition for their cultural and land rights.
The names of many places in the
United States have American Indian
names. Some of them are: Potomac
(River), Manhattan, Chicago,
Appalachia, and Mississippi. Identify
places in the city or state where you
live that have Indian names. Find out
what the names mean. Make a small
dictionary of these words.
The word “Sangamon,” as in
“Sangamon Auditorium,” comes from
the name of the local Sangamon
River. The origin of the name of the
river is unknown; among several
explanations is the theory that it
comes from the Pottawatomie word
Sain-guee-mon (pronounced “sang gä
mun”) meaning “where there is
plenty to eat.”
Some famous Lakota Sioux leaders
were Sitting Bull, Chief Red Cloud,
Chief Black Elk, Chief Crazy Horse, and
Chief Spotted Tail. Find out why they
are remembered. Alone or with
others, make a booklet in which you
include their biographies and
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Looking and Listening
The dances allow us to experience something about the Lakota Sioux way of life
The dances are about such things as the sacred hoop, the buffalo, and the eagle
The Lakota Sioux believe that dance is an important part of the sacred circle of life
Dance must be watched closely in order to see the patterns of movement
How the dancers use the space of the stage: one place or many;
close together or far away
How the dancers’ movements are usually close to the ground
How the dancers start and stop exactly on the beat
How the dancers show energy: fast, close; calm, exciting
For objects such as eagle feather fans and horse dance sticks
How the drum beats fit the dances
For the one special time in each
dance when four beats are
sounded loudly and the dancers
turn four times (The four beats
represent the four directions of
the compass, which are part of the
sacred circle of life.)
For rhythms
For singing
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