Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kevin Locke


Sometimes you know someone for a long time and they influence your life.  Sometimes you know someone for a short time and they influence your life.  Then there is happenstance.  When I was in graduate school at Mankato State University, one day I happened to be hungry at noon.  I happened to have some free time.  I happened to have just enough money in my pocket to get a sandwich from the student union.

At noon, on the quad at MSU, they would sometimes have an open mic where anyone could say anything they wished.  Other times they would bring people in to talk or entertain.  I'm sure there was a system, but to me it seemed random.  You never knew what you were going to get when you crossed the quad.

On this particular day that everything happened to be in place for me to get a sandwich from the Student Union, I reached the quad and there was a Native American in full regalia dancing.  I have always been interested in all things Native American and I stopped and watched his show.  I was mesmerized.  I forgot my hunger.

He was hoop dancing.  I had seen some hoop dancing on television but only a little. This guy had scattered a bunch of hoops all across the ground and would dance over a hoop and with his toes and legs would work it up his body.  Then another and another.  I don't know how many he had but there were at least twenty.  With these hoops, he made all the traditional forms.  I was transfixed.  At the end of his routine, he worked all the hoops into an interlocking doughnut around his body.  The music stopped and he placed his hands on top of the doughnut and pushed it down to the ground.  As he stepped out of the doughnut, it snapped into a sphere.

Then he talked in the microphone.  He talked about the circle and it's symbolism.  He talked about his hoops.  There were four colors of hoops in his kit.  There were red ones, black ones, white ones and yellow ones.  He talked about the four colors as the four winds and the four directions and then he talked about the four colors of man.  Red, black, white and yellow.  He talked about how each is important to the other and if one was gone the whole thing would collapse.  He then pulled a random hoop out of the kit and the sphere sprang apart.

Paradigm shift!  His show made me want to be a better person.

I kept that lesson with me and have thought about it often.  Probably a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought about that dance and the lessons I learned from it.  To this day I don't recall if I made it to the Student Union for that sandwich, but I do remember the profound lesson I learned by watching him dance.  I believe it was the first time in my life I shed tears while viewing a dance.  That was about twenty-five years ago.

I got a job in 2000 teaching at Brigham Young University-Idaho.  We have a program there called "Center Stage" where they bring acts in from all over the world to perform for the student body and the local community.  We've had Chinese acrobats, French mimes, Japanese drummers and many many others.  It's pretty amazing what they bring in to this town that is otherwise in the middle of nowhere.

I talked to the guy in charge of Center Stage when I first got here about this Native American guy I had seen who had changed my life all those years ago.  I asked him to bring the guy in because I wanted to expose his teachings to our studentbody.  Problem is, I didn't know who he was.  It took awhile, but I finally tracked him down and discovered his name was Kevin Locke.  His website can be found here.

Center Stage gets booked sometimes years in advance and it took a long time, but we finally got Kevin Locke booked at BYU-Idaho.  I volunteered to host him while he was here.  It was a dream come true for me.  I was a little nervous.  What if he wasn't as cool as I had remembered him?  What if he was aloof?  What if?  What if? What if?

We scheduled three master classes with Kevin, and I spent two days with him.  I found him to be one of the most genuine individuals I have ever known.  He transitioned me from groupie to friend in moments.

Our first master class was with the theatre students.  Kevin is a storyteller as well as a dancer.  The second master class was with the music students because Kevin plays the Native American Flute, an instrument he has rescued from the brink of extinction.  He said that when he takes the flute to different Native American groups, people come to him and give him gifts of song.  They'll give him a song their families sang and played.  Songs that hadn't been played on a flute for fifty years or more.  Then we had the master class with the dance students.  He brought his regular hoops and then he brought many others that he allowed us all to use as he taught us to dance.  Most of us looked pretty silly as we attempted to do what he did.  It was a great couple of days.

The second night he was here, he did a performance for Center Stage.  His performance was a mixture of dancing, storytelling and flute playing.  He also did the dance with the hoops where he made the doughnut around his middle and turned it into a sphere.  Just as I had remembered it from all those years before.  He talked about the four winds, the four directions and the four colors of man.  The audience loved his show.

I had my sons with me for that performance.  They loved the show.  I hope it was life changing for them as it was for me.  I don't think it shifted their paradigms, though because I have taught them those lessons all of their lives.

I took my boys to meet Kevin after the show.  He was absolutely gracious.  A great man.  And I finally got to hang out with him.  I have a great life.

Thank you Kevin.

Kevin Locke and me

Kevin greeting people after the show

Kevin with me and my boys