Northern Plains Ballet (Bismarck, ND)


  Photo of a Native American woman wrapped in buckskin with triangle pattern.

Swiftbird by Robert Meyer, whose work was featured as a pictorial background in Northern Plains Ballet's production of The Encounter, a dance piece based on the Lewis & Clark expedition's encounters with Native Americans. Image courtesy of Robert Meyer

The Northern Plains Ballet (NPB) began as a ballet training facility for student dancers in Bismarck and Dickinson, North Dakota, before becoming a professional ballet company that tours across the northern plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. NPB continues to operate as a training facility, offering instruction to approximately 150 students annually, as well as providing the region with quality dance performances.

In FY 2005, NPB received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $10,000 to support the presentation of an original dance piece, The Encounter, based on the Lewis & Clark expedition. The piece is a theatrical account of the expedition based on the journals of Meriwether Lewis and the perspective of the Native American tribes the expedition encountered. NPB toured the piece to Bismarck's Belle Mehus Theater on March 25, 2006, Dickinson State University on April 5, and Jamestown College on April 11. Total attendance at the three productions was approximately 1,250, and NPB will be seeking further engagements in the summer and fall 2006.

The Encounter, choreographed by NPB Artistic Director Anthony Noa, unfolds as a narrative highlighting Native American views of their first encounter with European-American explorers and its present-day impact.  In the piece, modern ballet is performed to contemporary Native American music and Native American dancers perform to traditional Native American music.

Photographer Robert Meyer also contributed to the dance piece, providing a pictorial background of Native Americans in their native dress performing traditional dances, which was projected behind the dancers.  He also helped to develop the storyline along with Thomas Christian, a world champion powwow dancer and former board member of the Assiniboine-Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)