It was the annual “powderpuff football” game, held at the high school field, with the Serpent seniors playing against the juniors in a soft-touch charity game. As fate would have it, the seniors secured the victory but the halftime also scored points with the crowd as senior student, Diego Pittman, dressed in his proper Indian regalia, performed an authentic Indian Fire Dance.
The dance was set with a large, lit ring which Pittman used to sequence a dance with four repetitions that involved the fiery ring moving over his body, through his legs and around his sides. The dance allowed for a freestyle movement which entertained the crowd as a sense of danger and excitement filled the night air. There was a standing ovation following the performance and nearby vehicles honked their horns in applause.
Two young audience members, Preston Larramendy (age 11) and Cole Robinson (age 9) found the performance cool as they had never seen anything like it before. Both boys expressed that it was somewhat scary which made it even more exciting as Pittman would move the fire ring through his legs. Robinson stated, “It made me nervous but I loved it. I want to see it again.”
Pittman shared that Indian dancing was just unveiled to him over the summer at the Boy Scout camp, held at Camp Fleischmann, in Chester, Calif. Although Pittman had worked the camp previously, this year he was hired to work the Ridge Program. In this area of scouting one is taught the mountain man experience including Indian lore, building with fallen trees, dances, survival skills and a Pow-Wow is held every Thursday. Each week an average of 100-200 scouts come through camp, differing in the programs they are assigned to.
“I met Jeffrey Bell from Ely, who was my trainer. I had never danced before but was intrigued to learn the method of using rings and gradually adding fire. Each day he worked with me on steps and routines, while I learned the balance necessary for using the rings. As his prodigy, he allowed me to light up the ring after two weeks, which usually takes over a year to accomplish. He felt I was a natural and I had found my calling,” Pittman shared.
Pittman was also the entertainment at the pep rally held Thursday in the gym. The hoop dance required that he rotate 12 hoops which created flowers, globes and symbolic eagle wings, all while he danced. In the finale he converted the wings into a basket which he raised above his head. Once again Pittman received loud cheers as his peers and the school staff responded to his unusual talent.
Although Pittman aspires to attend nursing college in Utah, he would eventually like to become a doctor. Expressing that Indian dancing has become his niche, he has found it to be his own circle of life as it comforts him and creates a complete satisfaction. The danger involved is respected by Pittman as he has slightly burned his arm here and there. And yet, he says, his nerves are relaxed, while his body warms to the intimacy of concentration within the tradition of the Fire Dance. Pittman has committed to continuing with these respectful dances and hopes to develop an ability of performing at events, private parties and special locations in the future.