Becoming a Dance Chief
by Mountaine Jonas
In a recent NCPC Newsletter Clyde Hall welcomed Timothy ‘White Eagle’ Turner as the newest member of the DFAP dance chiefs. To find out a bit more about the history of White Eagle (who has been dancing since 2000), Mountaine conducted an inspiring interview with him:
What background prepared you for your work with the Naraya?
I was born in Arizona in 1966. My mother was full blood Western Apache from the White Mountain Reservation, but I was given up in a private adoption, through prior arrangement, at birth and know nothing of a birth father. After a devoutly Mormon childhood, I discovered the work of Joseph Campbell, which led me to identify in my early twenties as a Spirit Seeker. The use of drum journeying and a Hemi-Sync brain machine helped to train me to have a fluid movement into and out of trance states; both were fortunate gifts and basic building blocks to the work I would later do.
In 1997 I began to attend radical faerie gatherings at Wolf Creek, where I was drawn into ritual planning; for more than a decade I attended three or more gatherings a year, and my work there was reflected back in the city where I began to create public rituals. I had a growing understanding of the Muse and Spirit.
What was your first dance like?
I attended my first Naraya at Wolf Creek in 2000, and I guess you could say I fell in head first. One of my first memories was of Clyde jogging by, saying hello to all – that was the first time I’d ever seen him. When he came by me, he grabbed my hand and started running faster. I didn’t have any idea what was going on. He ran me to the middle of the circle and said, “Sit here”. There I was with Charles on one side and Clyde on the other. Clyde had me sit there with him for the whole dance so I could see everything. I had a very intense dance. You know, there is always that one dancer that goes down on every song; well, that was me, I dropped like a dead fish song after song. I was running and jumping on one song, and knocked down crying the next. I think that the decade of doing journey work and the brain machine really primed my head for the work of the dance, so when I got there, I was ready. It was like I had been doing exercises for years, and now finally I was getting to run and feel what all those exercises were for.
So how have those experiences led you to become a dance leader?
I have been dancing with the Naraya for 14 years now. I have danced each dance at least once, and in total done something like 45 dances. I have worked most crew positions – gatekeeper, smudger, fire, water, kitchen, elder care, and working circle. Each job offers different lessons and a different view of the ceremony. About ten years ago I had a dream of Clyde asking me to lead the dance. But you never really know with dreams, so I just put it in the back of my mind and continued on.
About four years ago, following my instinct, I started paying more attention to Clyde and what he was doing inside the ceremony. I was just trying to see if there was any way I could support him. My energy started shifting around working one-on-one with dancers, and I found myself being less drawn to work with any one dancer and instead focus on how the entire circle was moving. During this period Clyde would occasionally whisper a juicy tidbit in my ear, and I started to see and feel the difference between working inside the circle and leading the dance. It’s all about perspective. Maybe this is just how it manifests in me, but it’s Eagle medicine, that ability to fly above and get a picture of the whole.
About two years ago Clyde asked me to consider leading the dance. It’s been a big and intense decision; I dragged my feet as long as I could to embrace such a blessing. But I had already dedicated myself to a life of Spirit, and now I feel that this way of supporting Clyde and the Dance is the best place for me to be of service. This year at Wolf Creek I helped lead the dance for the first time…
How did that feel?
That first night of leading the ceremony was very much like being thrown into the deep end of a pool. I knew I would be leading at some point during the ceremony, but on the very first regular dance song, something happened which required the full focus of both the dance leader and Clyde, so I had to hop in without thinking about it! The same exact thing happened the first time I led a song at a Naraya. I’d been told I “should think about leading a song someday” and two hours later the song leader got some terrible news on the phone, and when he tried to lead his song, the weight of the phone call hit him and he couldn’t go on. So I hopped in that time too. I guess that’s the way Naraya works for me – it always seems to throw me into the deep end when I am not expecting it.
And on that note, welcome to the NCPC Board!
Yes, that’s meaningful for me too. For the past twenty years I have supported myself through small business ventures and along the way have had the opportunity to raise funds for a variety of causes. With this experience under my belt, I was invited to join the Board. I am looking forward to helping the NCPC flourish!