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Rusty Gillette to serve as Northern head dance judge

BISMARCK, N.D. - Rusty Gillette began Traditional dancing at the age of 3.

Since then, the 34-year-old continues to dance, changing to the Grass Dance category when he was 12, and travels across the United States and Canada to compete.

But Gillette's experience also offers him the opportunity to judge various dances, too - a job he describes as sometimes tough but rewarding and one requiring fairness, he said.

An Arikara and Hidatsa from the Fort Berthold Reservation, Gillette will serve as the Northern head dance judge for the National Powwow.

''My job is to select judges throughout the weekend,'' Gillette said. ''It's a tough position because the head judge has a lot of power as far as making it a fair competition for the dance categories.''

Fairness aside, the head judge is also responsible for making sure he selects judges who are knowledgeable, Gillette said.

''The judge has to be someone who isn't leaning toward a particular dancer,'' he said. ''It's a tough position. When the winners are called, the head judge is going to take the criticism.''

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With the Northern dance competition, Gillette said judges will review several different categories for both male and female dancers. For the men, there's the Grass Dance, the Fancy Dance and the Northern Traditional Dance. For the women, there's the Fancy Shawl Dance, the Northern Traditional Dance and the Jingle Dance.

''I'll be at the National Powwow all weekend, and I'll select people who I think will be knowledgeable and fair,'' he said.

During the contest, Gillette also has to make sure the judges are present for each category when the competitions begin.

Gillette is a member of the Dead Grass Society in White Shield, and he's won the Midnight Grass Dance Special at the Gathering of Nations held annually in New Mexico.

When not dancing or judging a competition, Gillette works with the Drumhop Productions, a production company Gillette co-founded with Everett Moore, producing CDs and DVDs for drum groups. Gillette also started a graphics company, iFIVE Graphics, according to the Drumhop Productions Web site.

With his wife and three children dancing, too, Gillette said the traveling to various pow wows gives him and his family time together and time to enjoy the places they visit. ''The National Powwow is one of the pow wows I look forward to,'' Gillette said. ''We walk around and look at the museums, and we get to visit Washington, D.C.''

But Gillette added that he and family look forward to all of the pow wows they attend.