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Inter-Tribal Competition Pow Wow Dance Styles

Editors' note: Listed here is a sampling of dances commonly performed on the pow wow circuit, along with an example of typical regalia associated with the dance style. Different tribes and regions often will have their own unique variations of each dance. The regalia differs widely and often reflects the dancerís personal preferences and tribal or familial affiliation.

Fancy Dance

The Menís Fancy Dance originated in the 1950s to attract and please pow wow visitors. The dance is flashy, colorful and requires stamina, strength and coordination; therefore, it is usually performed by young men. Fancy Dance movement is faster than any other dance.

Distinguishing the Menís Fancy Dance outfit is the twin bustle, decorated with a colorful fringe that flows freely while the dancer performs the ruffle with fast foot movements. The fringeís many colors are said to represent the Rainbow Spirit. The dancer wears a headdress roach with two feathers that are kept moving throughout the dance; at times, the dancerís face cannot be seen for the flowing fringe. Dancers also carry decorated coup sticks.

This dance, also known as the Bustle Dance, is said to have originated in Oklahoma.

Jingle Dance

Known also as the Healing Dance, the Jingle Dance originated with the Ojibwe in the Great Lakes region.

The dress itself is said to have originated as a means of healing a medicine manís granddaughter. In a dream, the elder was told to construct a jingle dress and have his granddaughter dance in it ñ and she was healed.

The colorful dress is covered with rolled-up, snuff-can lids attached with bright-colored ribbons. The jingles are close enough to hit one another, creating a near-musical, happy sound. Dancers perform simple zigzag steps ñ no high stepping or fancy footwork ñ and make the jingles sway.

The jingles are attached to soft cloth such as taffeta or cotton. The dancer is judged by her footwork and grace.

Grass Dance

The Grass Dance is believed to have originated with the Omaha Tribe. All stories of the dance point to the dance as ceremonial. In the South, some tribes believe it was connected to a warrior society and that scalps were tied to the dancersí clothing to celebrate victory in battle.

The Grass Dance, to the northern tribes, is believed to be a blessing ceremony for new ground. The dancers would trample the grass in preparation for a village, and the grass was tied to the dancer. As the dancer moves, the fringe attached to his regalia sways as if to simulate the natural movement of tall prairie grass.

The dance is said to represent the balance of life. The dancer must perform the same move on either the right or left. The dancerís regalia is covered with yarn and ribbons that sway, and he wears a lot of color.

Womenís Traditional Dance

Traditional Women dancers are looked on with reverence as the elegant presence at a pow wow. Traditional is a dance that exemplifies dignity, grace and modesty. The women can move in several ways. Some move in a bounce style, originated by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota of the north. Some Traditional Women dancers zigzag or side step in a circle around the arena, always with a bounce movement.

The dress is usually elegant yet simple; the women always carry an eagle feather fan, which they raise in the air from time to time as the songs indicate, with an honor beat to show respect and honor for the men and the drum.

The women wear a shawl that is kept close to them, often with very intricate beadwork in patterns that reflect the tribe and family, and they carry an awl and knife on their belt. Their feet never rise above the ground.

Fancy Shawl Dance

Said to imitate the movements of the butterfly, the Fancy Shawl Dance is a relative newcomer to the pow wow circuit, starting in the 1950s and 1960s. The intricate foot movement and spinning show off the fringe on the shawl and colors of the dancerís outfit. Women wanted a new style of dance that would attract attention, much like the Menís Fancy Dance has done.

Light fabric is used in making these dresses to give the appearance that the dancer is floating ñ and to prevent the dancer from overheating. Many Fancy Shawl dancers do not wear leggings but calf-high moccasins. The shawl is the most important part of the outfit and must extend from hand to hand when the dancerís arms are outstretched.

The Fancy Shawl Dance was first called the Graceful Shawl Dance and did not involve fast movement or high stepping. Today the dancer uses energetic twirls and high steps to a rapid drum beat.

Menís Traditional Dance

The Menís Traditional Dance simulates the warrior preparing for battle. Part of the Menís Traditional Dance is the Crow Hop or Sneak-Up dances. He carries an eagle feather fan and a staff and wears a single bustle, arm bands and a roach with a single feather as well as bells on his ankles. He will crouch close to the ground and stand up at different times during the dance. At times during the dance, a drummer uses heavy strokes that depict the sound of gunfire.

Each tribe has a form of Traditional Dance, but the Lakota Nation is credited with the Traditional Dance and most regions have adapted some form of the Lakota version.

The southern version may contain more color and feathers on the regalia.

Editorsí note: Listed here is a sampling of dances commonly performed on the pow wow circuit, along with an example of typical regalia associated with the dance style. Different tribes and regions often will have their own unique variations of each dance. The regalia differs widely and often reflects the dancerís personal preferences and tribal or familial affiliation.
Fancy Dance
The Menís Fancy Dance originated in the 1950s to attract and please pow wow visitors. The dance is flashy, colorful and requires stamina, strength and coordination; therefore, it is usually performed by young men. Fancy Dance movement is faster than any other dance.Distinguishing the Menís Fancy Dance outfit is the twin bustle, decorated with a colorful fringe that flows freely while the dancer performs the ruffle with fast foot movements. The fringeís many colors are said to represent the Rainbow Spirit. The dancer wears a headdress roach with two feathers that are kept moving throughout the dance; at times, the dancerís face cannot be seen for the flowing fringe. Dancers also carry decorated coup sticks.This dance, also known as the Bustle Dance, is said to have originated in Oklahoma.
Jingle Dance
Known also as the Healing Dance, the Jingle Dance originated with the Ojibwe in the Great Lakes region.The dress itself is said to have originated as a means of healing a medicine manís granddaughter. In a dream, the elder was told to construct a jingle dress and have his granddaughter dance in it ñ and she was healed.The colorful dress is covered with rolled-up, snuff-can lids attached with bright-colored ribbons. The jingles are close enough to hit one another, creating a near-musical, happy sound. Dancers perform simple zigzag steps ñ no high stepping or fancy footwork ñ and make the jingles sway.The jingles are attached to soft cloth such as taffeta or cotton. The dancer is judged by her footwork and grace.
Grass Dance
The Grass Dance is believed to have originated with the Omaha Tribe. All stories of the dance point to the dance as ceremonial. In the South, some tribes believe it was connected to a warrior society and that scalps were tied to the dancersí clothing to celebrate victory in battle.The Grass Dance, to the northern tribes, is believed to be a blessing ceremony for new ground. The dancers would trample the grass in preparation for a village, and the grass was tied to the dancer. As the dancer moves, the fringe attached to his regalia sways as if to simulate the natural movement of tall prairie grass.The dance is said to represent the balance of life. The dancer must perform the same move on either the right or left. The dancerís regalia is covered with yarn and ribbons that sway, and he wears a lot of color.
Womenís Traditional Dance
Traditional Women dancers are looked on with reverence as the elegant presence at a pow wow. Traditional is a dance that exemplifies dignity, grace and modesty. The women can move in several ways. Some move in a bounce style, originated by the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota of the north. Some Traditional Women dancers zigzag or side step in a circle around the arena, always with a bounce movement.The dress is usually elegant yet simple; the women always carry an eagle feather fan, which they raise in the air from time to time as the songs indicate, with an honor beat to show respect and honor for the men and the drum.The women wear a shawl that is kept close to them, often with very intricate beadwork in patterns that reflect the tribe and family, and they carry an awl and knife on their belt. Their feet never rise above the ground.
Fancy Shawl Dance
Said to imitate the movements of the butterfly, the Fancy Shawl Dance is a relative newcomer to the pow wow circuit, starting in the 1950s and 1960s. The intricate foot movement and spinning show off the fringe on the shawl and colors of the dancerís outfit. Women wanted a new style of dance that would attract attention, much like the Menís Fancy Dance has done.Light fabric is used in making these dresses to give the appearance that the dancer is floating ñ and to prevent the dancer from overheating. Many Fancy Shawl dancers do not wear leggings but calf-high moccasins. The shawl is the most important part of the outfit and must extend from hand to hand when the dancerís arms are outstretched.The Fancy Shawl Dance was first called the Graceful Shawl Dance and did not involve fast movement or high stepping. Today the dancer uses energetic twirls and high steps to a rapid drum beat.
Menís Traditional Dance
The Menís Traditional Dance simulates the warrior preparing for battle. Part of the Menís Traditional Dance is the Crow Hop or Sneak-Up dances. He carries an eagle feather fan and a staff and wears a single bustle, arm bands and a roach with a single feather as well as bells on his ankles. He will crouch close to the ground and stand up at different times during the dance. At times during the dance, a drummer uses heavy strokes that depict the sound of gunfire.Each tribe has a form of Traditional Dance, but the Lakota Nation is credited with the Traditional Dance and most regions have adapted some form of the Lakota version.The southern version may contain more color and feathers on the regalia.