LUMBERTON — New Yorker Mickela Mallozzi has traversed the world with her dance-centered travel show Bare Feet — from Italy to Malaysia — but one recent trip was especially moving: visiting Robeson County to participate in the Lumbee Powwow.
“This particular episode of Bare Feet is unique from anything I’ve ever done before,” Mallozzi said. “I became very emotional while creating this episode, from research to filming to editing.”
Mallozzi was tipped off to the annual event by one of her husband’s friends who is Lumbee.
“I had never heard about the Lumbee Tribe. She heard of my project and said ‘you know, we have these powwows here, you should do a show here’,” Mallozzi said.
After about a year of planning and waiting for the big event to come around “the stars aligned” and Mallozzi headed to the Dance of the Spring Moon Powwow.
The product of that visit aired on NYC Life, A PBS station in New York City, on Wednesday night and will be shown again on Saturday. Viewers outside of the tri-state area will be able to watch the full episode online at travelbarefeet.com.
“People need to know the story, I didn’t know the history … I think it’s going to be sort of eye-opening for everyone, especially the northeast,” Mallozzi said.
Bare Feet began as a blog in 2010, and is currently in its first season on NYC Life. Along with hosting and producing the show, Mallozzi is a classically trained dancer and dance teacher who particularly enjoys folk dance.
In the show’s 13 episodes, Mallozzi said dance has typically played second fiddle to the personal stories of the people and cultures featured. Joining the sacred event, Mallozzi said, was powerful.
“I’m a pretty emotional person but never on a shoot have I cried, like, on the hour,” she said.
Mallozzi said she was moved by the peeople she met and their desire to perpetuate Lumbee traditions, even in the face of stereotyping and racism.
“We interviewed so many people and heard these stories about keeping the Lumbee traditions alive … it’s a challenge for these people, and I heard that firsthand,” she said.
Mallozzi said she even had to approach dancing a little differently for this episode. Typically, she doesn’t hesitate to walk up to strangers and take them on as a dance partner.
“It’s a very sacred dance, so you can’t just go in and dance with people,” she said. “It’s also a competition … this was very different and it was a challenge for me but in a good way.”
At first, she got the reaction most out-of-towners get from locals, who have a keen ear for accents not native to the Great State of Robeson — “You aren’t from here, are you?”
By the end of the three-day event, inquiries had morphed.
“People kept asking ‘are you sure you aren’t Lumbee?’,” Malozzi said.
Moments where dancers stepped aside to individually show her the moves stand out in Mallozzi’s mind, as do voices that accompanied the drum circles and the vivid colors of the traditional Lumbee regalia, which she donned as well.
“These people let me into the community. These people danced with me. I was dressed in the regalia,” Mallozzi said, reflecting. “It was a beautiful experience.”