Derrick Suwaima Davis believes that everyone is born with a known purpose, to use dance as a form of education and expression.
Raised on Hopi reservation land in northern Arizona, he began attending powwows at age 3 and fell in love with his tribe’s native dances.
As he got older, he realized that there was a world outside the reservation that had become engulfed in consumerism and forgotten the resources our planet provided.
Now, Suwaima hopes to bring audiences down to earth with her latest dance performance, titled “Dancing With The Universe | Native Style,” Saturday, May 7 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
“When we started over 15 years ago, there was no clear way for me to show my own culture, but I asked other tribes to show their songs, dances and the way they were managing their resources,” he said. “It’s all based on the fundamental principle of how to make a good life for their community.
“In every culture you will see this common thread of people wanting a good life. ‘Dance with the Universe | Native Style’ is about looking back in awe at what nature has made and encouraging people to embrace that more in their daily lives.
He compares this to a time “when there was no running water or electricity and people harvested whatever wild foods might be available at certain times of the year”, and people then “greatly enjoyed everything they had”.
He intends to do this by opening the show with a scene set on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice – also considered the start of a new year in some cultures.
“That’s when we wake up the earth and encourage the snow to come to get everything ready for spring planting,” Suwaima said.
From there, the show shifts to a warmer tone.
“Then we go into dances that represent spring, back to summer when the plants have produced their pollen but are now starting to produce seeds.”
It is during the spring portion of the show that Suwaima plans to release a flippant number called “Let’s Get Busy” which will feature native flutes to paint a picture of spring in the minds of the audience that is unlike anything of what he has ever seen on stage.
“I’m sure people have seen Native American flutists playing solo and a few of them have done duets, but it’s going to be between three and five flautists sharing the limelight and instead of standing they’re will carry deer hooves or other percussion instruments. around their ankles and turn the performance into a dance,” he said.
The show will use the entire stage to reflect the vibrancy of “when life is really big and busy” during the summer, according to Suwaima.
It shows the mixing of the tribes during the harvest season when the tribes bartered among themselves.
This is best done during a number called “Horse Dance”, which depicts harvest time when tribes bartered crops and how the arrival of horses and how they accelerated trade and travel.
The show will end with what Suwaima calls the “Hoop Dance” to signify the end of the year.
Suwaima will join performers from several Arizona-based tribes on stage, including Hopi, O’odham, Diné and Apache dancers and musicians.
“I have grown as an artist along with many other artists who will grace the stage of Dancing With The Universe | Native Style and partly because we found a common thread in cultures around the world,” said Suwaima, who is Hopi and Choctaw.
Suwaima hopes the show shows the unity the tribes share and reminds people of the importance of the planet.
“I hope to encourage the public to continue working to strengthen us as humans to care for the earth and all other life forms that perform important tasks,” he said.
He also hopes the show will be informative and help people clear up any misconceptions they may have about Native Americans.
“I want people to learn things about indigenous people that they didn’t learn in the classroom,” Suwaima said. “It’s sharing with them in a healthy way a good interpretation of who we are as indigenous people.”