By Marissa Johnson
O’odham Action News
On June 5, NBC showcased the dance group Indigenous Enterprise on their show “World of Dance” on their official YouTube channel. It is a three-minute clip of dancers auditioning and showing their Indigenous dancing skills in front of celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough.
One of the dance group members is Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member and former Mr. Indian Scottsdale Community College, Jorge Gonzales-Zuniga Jr. He is part of the dance group and danced in front of the judges.
He explained how he started hoop dancing.
“I was a teen at the Boys and Girls Club over here in Lehi, where I’m from,” Gonzales-Zuniga said. “I didn’t really have much knowledge about our own traditions and our own songs. I didn’t really go to many Community events. [One day] the club brought in this hoop dancer; his name is Kevin Dakota Duncan. I ended up taking his class from my junior year to senior year, and [after] I graduated [from high school] I started working for the [Boys & Girls] club. Then I ended up working with Kevin with his hoop dance class.” As a member of the dance group, Gonzales-Zuniga became busy with performing wherever they had a request.
He explained how the dance group got the audition for “World of Dance.”
“I remember the day when I got the call from my guy,” Gonzales-Zuniga said. “He was asking me if I wanted to be on ‘World of Dance.’ I thought he meant like just a commercial break or something. I didn’t know he meant to actually audition for the show. So, I agreed to it. Once the time came, we went to the audition in Los Angeles.”
Gonzales-Zuniga painted a picture of the moments leading up to the very moment of dancing for the judges:
“We got there on Thursday and shot until Saturday,” Gonzales-Zuniga said. “[The producers] told us Sunday would be like game day. They told us the judges were not going to be there Sunday. So, it’ll just be us in front of the producers. And the producers were just going to tell us a straight yes or no answer. If it’s a no, then the next day we go back home.
“Come Sunday, we’re doing a couple more shots, a couple more pictures, a couple more videos. Then our time comes and we’re waiting in another room. We’re all pretty nervous; I’m pretty nervous. Especially in the routine where I have to jump on beat in the song. I was really messing that up because I was holding three hoops at a time. My guy was getting scared; everybody was getting scared because I kept getting stuck. Once the time came, they said, ‘Okay, we’re ready for you.’
“They put us in that little room with the little background area. They told us to do the little image, do a couple of movements, some reaction scenes like ‘Okay we’re ready.’ So, we’re like ‘Okay, we’re not going to front about anything because this isn’t the judges, it’s just going to be the video producers, it’ll be easy.’
“They counted down ‘Three, two, one, go!’ I walked through the door and what did I see? I see J-Lo, because she was wearing that red shirt. Then my eyes kind of opened really wide, like ‘Wow.’ …
“We introduced ourselves and tried to explain each of the [dance] categories in the powwow circuit so they understood what we were doing and how we’re doing it. Because there is fancy, chicken, grass and hoop. We told them that we did our best and our hardest to put everything together into one for each category. That way, each and every one of us has something to do.”
Although the judges did not choose Indigenous Enterprise to move forward on the show, Gonzales-Zuniga said he is thankful for the opportunity to share his culture with world viewers. He is hopeful this opportunity will open more doors in the future and he will continue to dance.
To watch the full video head to NBC World of Dance’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/d_k-a2vC01A