An Olympic Dream
Local middle school student will dance in the Olympics opening ceremoniesGeneral Editor
Those tuning in to view opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City this February may see a familiar face among the Native American dancers featured.
Jefferson County Middle School eighth-grader Cory Johnson, along with his aunt and uncle from Burns, will be the showcased dancers in a group of 500 Indian dancers performing.
The Olympic Committee planned to have 100 dancers from each of the five Utah tribes (Paiute, Ute, Goshute, Navaho and Shoshone), for a total of 500. But there weren't enough Utah Paiutes who could participate, so Paiute dancers were recruited from neighboring states.
One of the Utah dancers invited her sister and brother-in-law, Julie and David Johnson of Burns, and they in turn invited their nephew Corey, and Julie's mother and stepfather. Thirteen-year-old Corey is the son of Michelle and Marvin Edwards of Warm Springs.
"We went down to Salt Lake in December to practice. I'm doing a Fancy Dance, my auntie is doing a Jingle Dance and my uncle a Traditional Dance," Corey said.
The committee not only liked them, but decided Corey's family would be among five groups showcased right up front during the extravaganza.
The 10-minute dancing segment will come right after the Olympic athletes make their entrance. Each of the five tribes will wear costumes in a color matching one of the Olympic rings, and the Paiutes color will be yellow. Julie just finished making new outfits for their group so they will all have touches of yellow.
The practice was conducted in the Olympic stadium with 500 other dancers, all in costume.
"They used the loudspeaker to coordinate all of us, but I can't discuss exactly what we're going to do before hand. We had to sign a contract," Corey related.
"It was difficult for all of us the first time, but we got the hang of it by the time the practice was done," he said.
The Oregon dancers must pay their own expenses in order to participate in the Olympic opening and a spaghetti dinner and raffle in Burns have helped raise some money for travel. Anyone interested in helping Cory represent Warm Springs at the Olympics may contact him at home, 553-9285, or leave a message for him at school by calling 475-7253.
The Oregon group leaves Feb. 2, and will practice all week in Salt Lake City prior to the 6:30 p.m., performance Feb. 8, before a crowd of 66,000 people.
Unfortunately, the dancers won't be able to stay and watch any of the sporting events, since tickets for just the opening ceremony cost $885.
This isn't the first time Corey's dancing abilities have taken him to exciting places. Last summer he was part of a group of Warm Springs dancers who were hosted for two weeks in Southern France to perform in several schools and villages. The trip was the result of a pen pal exchange between students in Nezignan L'eveque, France and Warm Springs Elementary.
A natural born showman, Corey's enthusiasm, bright smile and elaborate costume made him a favorite with audiences during the trip.
Getting to go overseas for the first time was exciting, but Cory and the other dancers weren't prepared for signing autographs and being treated like celebrities. "They really liked us," he admitted.
He first got interested in Native American dancing at age 9, and learned the movements to the Grass Dance from his aunt's friend Joe of the Grand Ronde Tribe.
Previously from Burns, Corey returned there in the summers to live with his aunt and uncle and travel around with them to powwows. Averaging five powwows a month, they danced in competitions in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California and as far away as Church Rock, N.M.
Corey began winning individual dance awards ranging in amount from $100 to $500, and invested them back into his dancing.
"I paid for my (feather) bustles from all my powwow winnings," Corey said, noting one bustle made by Stan Whiteman of Browning, Mont., cost $1,000.
At the powwows he would watch the other dance competitors and pick up ideas.
"On New Year's of 2000 I started doing Fancy Dance. I learned from watching others," he said, noting he was self-taught.
Whether he's performing at the Olympics or a powwow, Corey said the reason he dances is, "Because it lets me see new places and it's really fun!"