Published on December 13, 2013 by Amy
Thirza Defoe (Giizhiigoquay), a performer from the Ojibwe and Oneida tribes of Wisconsin, is widely known for her sacred hoop dancing that she has been performing since the age of 8. Dancing has taken her around the world to Spain, Japan, Egypt, and Italy. Her passion for acting has brought her to Los Angeles.
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Thirza’s repertoire consists of performances at the 2002 Grammy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre and the 2002 Native American Music Awards (NAMMYS) were she danced with contemporary Native American recording artists, Brule. Her many years as an accomplished hoop and eagle dancer have awarded her recognition in both the native community and throughout the world. In 1992, she danced in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics Games in Barcelona and celebrated the Millennium in Egypt in December of 1999 dancing with the Call for Peace Drum and Dance Company. She has been featured in the National Geographic World Magazine (August 1998) and has been hailed Wisconsin’s Best Kept Secret by News from Indian Country: The Independent Native Journal.
The art of traditional storytelling and knowledge of the Ojibwe language was passed down to Thirza by her Ojibwe grandmother. She shares her culture and it’s history through performances and presentations to students in elementary schools, high schools and colleges throughout the United States. She interacts closely with the audience while introducing them to Iroquois social songs, traditional flute music, storytelling, solo hoop dancing and people hoop dancing, uniting all in the circle.
Thirza is well versed in music, theater and dance. Her acting credits include the starring role and narrator in People of the Forest (PBS educational documentary), Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and most recently, Sacajawea in Stone Heart at the Autry Native Voices and a principal role in the independent film, Road Reps. As a versatile performer she played a young girl in Susan Lori-Parks’, In the Blood along with composing and performing the soundtrack. Other credits include One Tribe Many Nations, a children’s book that highlights Thirza. When not performing, she can be found pursuing her other interests: photography, playing guitar, writing, snowboarding and mentoring young native playwrights with the Mentor Artists Performers Project (MAPP) and the Autry National Center.
In May 2004 Thirza graduated from the world-renowned, California Institute of the Arts were she received her B.F.A. in Theatre. Later that year, She was awarded the First Americans in the Arts Scholarship for students pursuing careers in acting and the Indigenous Heritage Festival award in the category of Performing Arts. This award is given to artists who have made a major positive impact on indigenous people and issues of the world. She is an artist-in-residence with the L.A. based theatre company, Theatre Fo Fo. In addition, she travels the country providing educational presentations and performances for audiences in various communities.