Grammy Award winner performs in Powers Ballroom

A Grammy-award winner performed at Central Michigan University for the second time this academic year.

The College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences hosted an Indigenous Performance by artist Ty Defoe on Thursday night. After performing in Moore Hall's Townsend Kiva in October, Defoe transitioned to Powers Ballroom.

Defoe has taught classes this semester as part of his Olga J. and G. Roland Denison Visiting Professorship of Native American Studies. He won the 2011 Grammy Award for Native American album.

"I don’t really consider what I do a performance, I think for me it feels more like sharing," Defoe said. "I am sharing what I know and what I have learned."

Defoe began his performance with an indigenous protocol referred to as “smudging," which blesses and gives good energy to the place where stories will be told and where songs and dances will be performed. The ingredients used are sage, cedar, sweet grass and tobacco. These represent plants from the earth, as well as being symbols for remembrance, Defoe said.

“It exists to evoke spirituality; the smell of the sage stimulates the senses by making it easier for us to listen and to open our hearts,” Defoe said.

The audience’s age group ranged from 5 year olds to some grandparents.

“I love how diverse the audience is because I feel like it makes people feel more comfortable," Defoe said. "As adults, sometimes it is fun to act like a kid doing some of these dances and vice versus kids get to act like adults and learn more information."

Lake Orion sophomore Spencer Roberts said he briefly met Ty Defoe when he presented to his REL 140 course.

“I was intrigued when I found out that he would be performing,” Roberts said. “My favorite part of the night was when Ty did his hoop dance, I thought it was very powerful.”

Defoe invited audience members to join him in the front of the room to dance with him.

“When (Defoe) first talked about dancing together I felt uncomfortable, but I wanted to put myself out there,” Roberts said. “I had a good time dancing. I enjoyed the idea of unity. There are no edges to life, it’s all a giant hoop or circle.”

Hastings sophomore Amber VanMeter said that she heard about the event through one of her favorite professors. She said she wanted to take advantage of the events put on by CMU.

“My favorite part was dancing with everyone towards the end," VanMeter said. "(Defoe) talked a lot about connecting with people and it was good to put that in action with the group dance.”

To wrap up the night, CMU awarded Defoe with a plaque for his service and contributions.

“For me the plaque represented all of the people showing up tonight and being present," he said. "Creating memories are really important to me. I kept thinking how am I going to ship this back. But in all honesty, I felt incredibly honored. It is such a blessing to have something that symbolizes such appreciation.”


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