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Pupils get a special history less

PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2010

LORNA MARSH

It was one lesson that they would never forget.

Scores of school pupils saw years of textbook knowledge come to life in front of their eyes yesterday as a group of Native Americans travelled thousands of miles to perform a series of ritual and sacred dances.

It was one lesson that they would never forget.

Scores of school pupils saw years of textbook knowledge come to life in front of their eyes yesterday as a group of Native Americans travelled thousands of miles to perform a series of ritual and sacred dances.

With elaborate swirling costumes in all colours of the rainbow jangling along to the stamp of feet and the beat of drums it was not a usual sight for a school playing field.

But dancers, pupils and teachers alike at Norwich High School for girls thought it was one of the most rewarding lessons they could have been given in history and geography - and the breaking down of stereotypes and cultural differences.

The Native Nations Dance Theatre troupe from Philadelphia visited the school as part of a month-long stay in East Anglia to share traditional dance, drum and song with the girls.

Group founder Vaughnda Hilton, or Yellow Eagle Woman, from the Blackfeet and Seminole tribes and Delwin Fiddler Jr from the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux tribe led the ensemble representing different Native American nations in a variety of dances including friendship, medicine, stamping grass and traditional male and female rounds.

And their young protégés, aged from four to 16, enjoyed learning something a little different from routines performed to Girls Aloud.

Clad in vibrant traditional costume, the theatre company also shared stories accompanied by songs, flute and drums.

And the group talked about their history, culture and values, conveying the overriding importance of respecting one another.

Ms Hilton said it demonstrated that Native Americans were not just consigned to the history books: "It was a fantastic thing to do, the girls obviously loved it and had a great time.

"It is very important for us to let people in our own and other countries know we are keeping our traditions and sharing our traditions and that we are still here.

"You would be amazed at how many people we visit who don't know we still exist as we do. And it is showing them that we might not look like they imagine, showing them what the reality of our culture is."

Valerie Bidwell, the school's headteacher, said: "The day is designed to bring Native American culture alive for the children.

"We are thrilled the troupe has been able to incorporate a visit to the school into their trip to the UK.

"Some of our girls don't have the opportunity to travel, so it is bringing different cultures to them and breaking down stereotypes. It is bringing it all alive for them."

Rebecca Possener and Anna Valchanova, both seven, agreed the day had been a lesson with a difference - and would be practising what they had learnt outside school.

Rebecca said: "I thought it was really good because their dances were traditional and not like we dance, so that was interesting and I enjoyed it when we did the circle dance."

Anna said: "I had never seen anything like it, the music was really good with a really strong beat and they had really beautiful costumes.

"It would be really nice to do this every day and make up our own dances at PE time."


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