Walking in Two

November 11 - 14, 2010
New York, NY


Walking in Two

November 11 - 14, 2010
New York, NY


Walking In Two (2010), by Tom Pearson, was a tale spun from the cultural bloodlines of “performing” Indians, from the time of the Wild West shows to the present. The artists re-constructed/de-constructed a Wild West show, à la Buffalo Bill, and exploded the notion of cowboys and Indians as we think we know it. Subverting audience expectations and the Euro-centric desire to see “traditional” Native dances onstage, the artists trapped passive viewers into witnessing an undressing of the images of Frontier America that our society has constructed and perpetuated for more than a century.

The work was performed on a traditional stage, but to an empty house, with audience members tucked into the wings, and watching onstage and from the back of the stage, facing out.



Photography by Luther Elliot and Corrine Furman




Created by Third Rail Projects

Choreographed by 
Tom Pearson in collaboration with the dancers

Performed by
Donna Ahmadi, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett

Production Staff

Costume Design: Tom Pearson and cast
Native regalia: Tom Pearson & Donna Ahmadi
Original Music: Mark DeNardo & Fables (with Liz Hogg), and Louis Mofsie & The Heyna Second Sons
Additional Music Mixed: Tom Pearson
Lighting Design: Amanda K. Ringger

The cliché images of American Indians that most people grow up with have their roots, largely, in the culture of performance. From the time of Buffalo Bill, Pawnee Bill, and others, the Wild West and traveling medicine shows cast actual Native political leaders, spiritual leaders, and warriors in roles--playing themselves onstage--to re-create and proclaim a conquered or vanishing wild west. It was the ultimate colonial blow to some, and an opportunity to persevere and recalculate identity for others. From the late 1800’s through vaudeville, film, roadside attraction culture, museums, powwows, and Native performing troupes, these images have undergone perpetuation, reclamation and reformulation, and are still very much part of the formula for “performing Indian.” In the case of our own personal and performative lives as mixed blood Natives, these performances have served as gateways back to culture, but simultaneously present conundrums when discussing identity and cultural attachments, especially in light of assimilation politics. For Tom, this manifests in questions of authenticity as Indian identity has been white-washed throughout several generations. For Donna, it becomes questions of the unknowable phantom father and the legacy of the Native adoptee. Considering the questions then, what does it mean at the end of the day to be commissioned to make a Native dance work?


Walking in Two was originally commissioned and presented by Dance New Amsterdam as part of DNA’s Heritage Series Contemporary First Nation, made possible with support from American Express. Additional support for the work came from Materials for the Arts/New York City Department of Cultural Affairs/Department of Sanitation, and Third Rail Projects with support from The Lucky Star Foundation and individual and institutional donors. 

Special thanks to Zach Morris. To Steve and Deb Morin for welcoming Mantis Dance Theater onto their Massachusetts property. To Elizabeth Carena, Tara O’Con, Stacie Fields, and to Kate Peila, Janessa Clark, Ed Rice and the Staff of DNA.