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Originally published Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Telling stories, saving heritage through dance

Lakota performer Kevin Locke keeps himself in shape for his rigorous Hoop Dance, during which he juggles 28 hoops circling his body, by...

Times Snohomish County Bureau

The Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble

"The Drum is the Thunder, the Flute is the Wind"

When: 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave.

Tickets: $12-$14 by calling 425-257-8600 or at www.villagetheatre.org.

Information: www.kevinlocke.com.

Related events: Village Theatre Pied Piper and Imagine Children's Museum present free preshow arts and crafts and other activities in the theater lobby an hour before each performance.

Lakota performer Kevin Locke keeps himself in shape for his rigorous Hoop Dance, during which he juggles 28 hoops circling his body, by running five to 10 miles a day.

"I think if I maintain a real strenuous and rigorous lifestyle, I condition my body to punishment," he said.

The Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble performs Saturday at the Everett Performing Arts Center, part of the Village Theatre's Pied Piper series of family concerts.

Drums, flutes, narrated dances and multimedia works are part of the show, with the centerpiece being Locke's Hoop Dance, hailed by The Washington Post as "visually astounding statements about the human condition with the ever-shifting tableaux of twirling hoops."

Locke, recognized as a master traditional artist and awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts, has toured for more than 20 years to 84 countries as a cultural ambassador for the United States Information Service. The much-recorded artist also is credited with leading the way in Native American heritage education.

Locke has recorded 12 albums, including "The First Flute," "Open Circle," "Keepers of the Dream" and "Dream Catcher."

Locke is legendary for his storytelling through dance, and he calls the hoop "the most pervasive archetype. The circle represents unity, peace, harmony, and the hoop is the symbol of collectivity."

"What you're doing within the hoops, you're creating a different place, a place that transcends the borders of time and space and dissolves the barriers of the past," he said. "It belongs to the ancestors, their hopes and prayers and aspirations we connect with — also with the future. It evaporates the boundaries between people. It connects us to the spiritual world."

"My goal is not to do a cultural presentation or indoctrination into Indian culture," he says. "I use folk arts. Every traditional culture on the planet has a form through which they express the essence of themselves, these innate qualities of balance, beauty, harmony and peace. Folk arts speak to all people everywhere."

Locke stages what is seen locally in powwows and transplants it to a theatrical setting with his troupe, using elements of traditional culture to accent traditional themes.

He likes the effect. "You can really take elements from the natural presentation, like in a longhouse and a powwow, and you can accentuate with sounds and lights and theatrical effects."

When not touring four to five months, Locke spends time at home in South Dakota with his 10 grandkids. In his mid-50s, he calls himself "a late bloomer" who admired the elders and enjoyed hearing flute music during the supper breaks at powwows.

"One of these older guys would go to schools," he said. "Richard Fool Bull. He was doing a concert down in 1972. The audience left, and I went over where he was putting his stuff away. I admired his flutes. We started talking. I asked him if anybody was carrying this on. He said nobody was interested in this music. I said it seems like someone should carry this on. He put his flutes down and said, 'Yeah, what about you?' "

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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