A Native American hoop dancer shared ancient traditions through dance, songs and storytelling with children and parents at the Mill Valley Public Library on Wed., July 18.

Tiburon resident Eddie Madril of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico told Native American stories, danced and sang songs during the Wednesdays on Stage portion of the library’s summer reading program.

“It is said that the reason we dance, and dance hard, is for the children who can’t dance yet so that they learn. We dance for the elders who can’t dance any more so they remember,” Madril said after the event.

Madril included dances that were not specific to the Yaqui tribe, but what many consider inter-tribal dances which means many different tribes do this kind of dancing.

“Just like almost every tribe in the country, as well as many indigenous groups, most of the dances are ceremonial, to some degree. They’re not a whole lot of social get-down, get-crazy dancing,” Madril said.

According to Madril, many Native American dances take place for life renewal celebrations, the seasons or the animals and water. They are specific to their location and are performed at the tribe’s reservations or rancheros.

“If you were to see my tribal-specific dances on stage, there would be some raised eyebrows from natives in the audience. Those dances are for purpose not for performance,” Madril said.

Lost in translation

The limits of the English language make it difficult to express the meaning behind Madril’s dancing. He considers the dancing close to the English definition of prayer.

“Prayer is the heartbeat of the earth, the heartbeat of us, the heartbeat of all living things around us,” said Madril. “It’s prayer in attitude, it’s prayer intention, it’s prayer in feeling; but not necessarily prayer in its English definition, to recite words.”

Children and parents also joined Madril on stage to participate in hoop dances and circle dances. He also demonstrated Native American sign language and told creation stories.

Madril also performs at community events, schools and centers, even performing in prisons and the California Youth Authority.

Madril links his performance to making the people feel good. His goal is not to get people to adopt his culture.

“If I have the right energy, feeling intention and beauty in my heart, then my goal in what I am doing is to have that shared with all people around me. So when people walk away I am hoping they walk away feeling good,” Madril said.

The Summer Reading Program is supported by the Mill Valley Library Foundation. The all-ages programs are held on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. at the amphitheater behind the library.

The next summer reading program at the library on July 25 will feature more ancient traditions with the Kalaikoil. The group will present classical Indian stories through music and movement.

Contact Soren Hemmila at shemmila@marinscope.com.

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