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|Thursday, 16 October, 2014|
Kevin Locke gives audience members hoop dance instructions. (Alexandria Alvarez photo)
By ALEXANDRIA ALVAREZ
REXBURG – Kevin Locke is known throughout the world as a hoop dancer, storyteller, and Northern Plain flutist.
On October 10, Locke was invited to Brigham Young University in Rexburg to perform at the Kirkham Auditorium. Locke is of Lakota and Anishinabe descent, he has traveled throughout the United States and world as a cultural ambassador.
Locke began his performance by playing his flutes, each flute was unique and carried it’s own story. The sounds of flute music filled the auditorium as Locke played small and large flutes, and intertwined traditional stories about how the flute came to be, a creation story, and talked about why it was important to revitalize flute playing. Locke also performed native sign language, something that was taught by his mother. Locke said that being here in Idaho was special, because his mother grew up on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. She spent her time learning from the elders of Fort Hall and in time learned the traditional sign language.
“The Tribes of the America had to develop a way to communicate, and sign language was one of the ways that Tribes communicated with one another. A story that my mom told me was a time when she was at Walgreens in Pocatello, she met an old Nez Perce lady. Neither of the two had ever met before, and couldn’t speak each other’s language, but they discovered that they both knew sign language, and could communicate. And from right there on the spot, this Nez Perce taught her Psalms 23,” said Locke before he performed it. Part of his artistry as a performer is to get the audience involved, and Locke began a series of games to see if the audience could decipher sign language signs about the weather; he showed them rain, lightning, and thunder.
After his flute and sign language presentation he asked the audience if they were ready to see some hoop dancing, which was received with an enthusiastic response.
“I’m going to skip over the hardest part and do just the easy part, which is instead of starting out with one hoop, I’m going to start out with six, because the hardest part is using just that one. It takes a lot of speed, coordination, agility, and athleticism to do one hoop, as you add hoops it becomes a lot easier because you can begin making designs. So I will be going from six to 28, but I will share with you a quick overview of what I would have done if I started with one. When you do this you are telling a story, and you are expressing your place in the hoop of life, and the idea is that we are all connected, all related in this design. The hoop also represents well-being, and prayer for your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual,” said Locke.
As Locke began adding hoops, he explained the reason why he uses 28 hoops.
“There are 28 days in a lunar cycle, and the idea is that the seasons where I live are really contracted and condensed, so there is a transition from one season to the next, and it happens rapidly,” said Locke.
At the end, he invited students that he had met the day before to bring a partner up and participate in hoop dancing 101, which was met with laughter and enjoyment by the audience as they watched the students struggle to keep up with Locke.
Locke expressed a desire to come and share with the Tribes of Idaho, specifically with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Fort Hall where his mother grew up. Locke learned the hoop dance from Arlo Good Bear, a Mandan Hidatsa from North Dakota.
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