In a flurry of feathers and bells, three colorful blurs pulse to the beat of a drum. Stu Glassner can't help but feel drawn to the stage, where three American Indian dancers spin wildly.
"When you hear that drum it's undeniably primal," says Glassner, who grew up in Arizona, now lives in Missouri and was back in the Valley to visit. "It just comes from the beat, you can feel the soul of it."
Around him, teenagers and senior citizens sit side by side in the Scottsdale Civic Center's grassy amphitheater, all eyes focused on the dancers at Native Trails, a free festival held for the last six years on many Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from January to April.
People taking in the show, buying turquoise jewelry and eating fry bread are mostly tourists, says Amanda Prince, communications coordinator for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. The festival was developed because Valley visitors said they wanted more American Indian events.
Native Trails is an opportunity to deliver it. The dances performed at Native Trails aren't strictly authentic, but are drawn from several Southwestern tribes to give people a taste of native culture.
Derrick "Suwaima" Davis, a dancer of Hopi and Choctaw heritage, says most people wouldn't get to see these dances without an event like this. You can't just walk on to a reservation after your morning golf game and see a hoop dance, he says. The show is to spread the philosophy behind the feathers, bells and drums.
"It still adheres to its original intent, but you have an explanation of the performance which you wouldn't get at a powwow," he says. "To perform these dances we've taken artistic license, modified some of the dances, so we can share the richness of our culture in this environment."
The message registers with Karen and Wayne Miner. The Canadian couple pays rapt attention to the Eagle Dance performed in front of them, watching as two black-clad dancers with feathered sleeves and beaked masks take the stage. The message of the previous dance, which was about how all humans make mistakes, registered with him on a philosophic level, says Wayne Miner.
As the two eagle dancers slowly move across the stage, mimicking soaring, Miner is more impressed with the elaborate regalia the dancers wear.
"I just love the colors and the costumes," he says.