Phoenix Native American Dance Group featured on Inauguration Day
PHOENIX – Kenneth Shirley never thought his dance group would be able to top the thrill of appearing on NBC’s ‘World of Dance.’ He was wrong.
Shirley is the Executive Director of Aboriginal business, a Phoenix-based Native American dance troupe, which performed during President Joe Biden’s inauguration parade on Wednesday. Shirley and her band appeared in a segment called “Dance Across America”, which featured dancers from across the United States.
The segment was put together by Kenny Ortega, who choreographed for Michael Jackson and directed the “High School Musical” films for Disney.
Shirley told Patch that Ortega saw Indigenous Enterprise on “World of Dance” last year and called for them to be included on Inauguration Day, propelling the group onto a global stage. Indigenous Enterprise filmed a short free dance at South Mountain and sent it to Ortega and his crew about two weeks ago. Seconds of the dance were featured during the virtual parade, to “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha and the Vandellas.
“My friends from Australia, the UK and London stayed up to watch it,” Shirley said. “It wasn’t just in the United States. It was all over the world.”
Indigenous Enterprise began in 2015 and features Indigenous dancers from tribes across the country with a mission to preserve Native American culture through dance. He also has a clothing line and produces documentaries, including a recent one about how Native Americans helped turn Arizona blue in the November election.
He collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas and traveled to Australia to perform at the Sydney Opera House. But Shirley said the band had to turn to alternative forms of creativity after the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to much of the band’s planned performances in 2020 and 2021, including a UK tour.
Including Indigenous culture in a major national event seems important, Shirley said.
“A lot of times we get left out and not really included in big events like this, so I think it’s cool that people put [the inauguration] together wanted to include some indigenous culture,” he said. “I think it’s important for people around the world to know that the United States is Indigenous land, and Native Americans, we are here.
Shirley said he hopes the Biden administration keeps its promise to be inclusive and representative of all Americans. It got off to a good start, according to Shirley, with the shutdown of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline one of Biden’s first acts as president. The pipeline would have passed through Native American reservations in Montana.
“A few hours later, he’s already done something good for Native Americans,” Shirley said.