WilCo Pow Wow
X Close Menu
MENU

Site Name

WilCo Pow Wow

Tagline

Experience the beauty and pageantry of a Native American Pow Wow

Phone

(615) 512-0952

Dance Styles

Dance Styles

Ladies Fancy Shawl

Ladies Fancy Shawl is the newest form of women's dance, and is quite athletic! Fancy Shawl is often called Northern Shawl, as it does come form the Northern tribes along the US-Canadian border.

This is very similar in dancing and the bright colors to the Men's Fancy Dance. The ladies wear their shawls over their shoulders, and dance by jumping and spinning around, keeping time with the music. They mimic butterflies in flight, and the dance style is quite graceful and light.

Emphasis is paid particularly to the shawls, with elaborate designs, applique, ribbon work, and painting. Long fringe hangs from the edges of the shawl, and flies round.


Men’s Traditional

A popular, Northern style of dress and dance the traditional style, has evolved from the well known "old time Sioux" style of the early reservation period through the 1940's. Although a clear distinction exists, one can see an obvious connection to the old-time Sioux Outfit, with the dancer drawing from this earlier style various elements which he either adheres to or uses as a basis for his own interpretation. Therefore this form of dancing that has evolved over the years, is the oldest form of Native American dancing.

What follows is a brief description of the major articles that comprise the modern "traditional" dance outfit. It must be stressed that this is only a brief description; that variations do exist from area to area and from tribe to tribe; and that careful observation and research be undertaken before starting to construct this type outfit. On his head the traditional dancer wears a roach. The longer porcupine hair is preferred because of it's movement. The roach spreader can be made of bone, metal, rawhide or leather. It can be carved, beaded, painted, etc. or just left plain. The roach feathers are inserted in sockets on the spreader, with two roach feathers being the usual number. The rocker spreader, popular with fancy dancers, is rarely seen. Occasionally one will see dancers wearing beaded headbands, often decorated with medallions or drops. Quilled wheels can also be worn in the hair.

Most dancers wear a shirt, either with or without ribbon decoration. Over the shirt is worn a breastplate that usually extends below the waist. Around the neck is a choker either of hair pipes and beads or a beaded strip. Many dancers also wear two bandoliers of hair pipes and beads or a 3 to 5 inch strip or otter or other fur decorated with mirrors or a combination of both. A vest can be worn either of cloth or leather. Some are beaded.

Arm bands and cuffs can be either beaded or metal or a combination of the two such as beaded cuffs with metal arm bands. The breech cloth or aprons can be made of either cloth or leather and range from plain to heavily decorated. Around the waist many dancers wear a belt, which can be beaded or decorated with metal tacks or conchos.

On their legs most dancers wear beaded knee bands with 6 to 10 inch leather fringe hanging from the bottom edge. Around the ankles are worn angora "furs". One may see the high fancy dance style furs worn with the bells tied on at the knees but this is less common. Although not as common, leggings can be worn in place of the furs and knee bands. Both the skin tube style and cloth flap leggings can be seen. When leggings are worn, the bells are tied round the knees. The bells can be almost any size and type. Fully or partially beaded, hard-soled moccasins are worn.

The bustle is usually the U-shaped type with a single row of wing or tail feathers and two spikes pointing upward. Sometimes additional rows of dyed and stripped feathers, fluffs or hackles are on the inside of the bustle. Though not as common the circular bustle and the old style mess bustle are sometimes used, the latter being somewhat rare.

In his hands, the dancer can carry a range of objects, commonly the wing fan, pipe bag, etc. The dancer is also said to be re-enacting the movement of a warrior searching for the enemy.


Men’s Straight

The Straight Dance is considered to be more dignified or formal than other pow wow dances. The general steps for the dance involve a "toe-heel" step where the dancer taps the ground with his toe on the first drum beat and then places his whole foot down on the second beat. The dance resembles a hunting or warring party and therefore the dancer must not dance backwards as that would symbolize a retreat from the enemy. Instead they always dance clockwise around the circle. As a Southern dance, it is danced to a Southern Drum.

The Straight Dance regalia consists of a ribbon shirt, tab leggings, aprons, and a headdress (usually a roach or a turban). These are decorated and accessorized with finger-woven garters, beaded belts, vests or bandoliers, German silver armbands, and scarfs. One of the main features of the Straight Dance is an otter dragger, also referred as an otterhide, which hangs from the dancer's back and drags on the ground. It is normally decorated with medals, beadwork, ribbonwork, or feathers. Straight dancers generally carry a fan, mirror board, or tail stick in their hands.


Jingle dress

Jingle dress is also called a prayer dress. There are differences in the origins of the dress among the tribes. The dress was seen in a dream, as an object to bring healing to afflicted people. It comes from the Northern tribe Ojibewea, or Chippewa, along the Canadian border.

A medicine man's granddaughter became very ill one day. In a dream, his spirit guides told him to make a jingle dress for her and have her dance in it. This, he was told would heal her. When the outfit was finished, the tribe assembled for a dance. On her first time around, the illness would not permit her to dance and she was carried. As time went on she was soon dancing in the circle.

Jingle dresses are decorated with rolled up snuff can lids that are hung with ribbon. The ribbon is then sewed to the dress, the jingles placed close enough so they can hit together, causing a beautiful sound. If one were to close their eyes as the Jingle dancer passes, it would sound as though it were raining!


Men’s Fancy

The Oklahoma Feather Dancer or "fancy dancer" is one of the most popular style of dance and outfit seen at modern Pow Wows. The fancy dance outfit, as such, has no single tribal identity.

The "Fancy Dance" originated as Fancy War Dance by the Hethuska society in Oklahoma. The individual who invented the dance was Gus McDonald. He was also the first World Champion Fancy War Dancer. The McDonald family, specifically Juel Farmer McDonald, the Ponca Tribal matriarch still presents the trophy to the fancy war dance champion each year because of this family honor.

Gus McDonald also invented the "feather pull". Another contest of the fancy dancers agility and ability to keep time with the drum. This dance is done only by permission of the McDonald family.

The McDonald Family song is also sung in honor of Gus McDonald's honor to the Ponca tribe and to the pow-wow world. This war dance song is only started by permission of the McDonald family and in their presence. Gus McDonald, Ponca and the First World Champion Fancy Dancer, should be recognized for his contribution to the Native American heritage and history.

The most obvious items in the fancy dance outfit are great amounts of loom beaded sets of suspenders, belt cuffs, headband, armbands. The designs are usually matching in all items and of a rainbow feather or geometric design. Beaded medallions are on the forehead and bustles are also quite common. Occasionally a breastplate will be used in place of the beaded suspenders or in conjunction with them.

The other trademark for fancy dancers is the use of large feather bustles. Currently most bustles are color-coordinated with the beadwork by using large amounts of feather hackles dyed the appropriate colors.

Small matching hackle bustles are sometimes worn as armbands. Hanging beneath the bottom bustle are a pair of trailers, usually with some ribbon work, made from navy blue, black or red wool.

Moccasins are Cheyenne style rawhide sole and may be partially or fully beaded. Sheep bells mounted on leather are worn just below the knee and below the bells about one or two inches are worn angora anklets. The apron pieces (two) are usually navy blue, black or red wool or trade cloth. Decoration may be floral beadwork, ribbon work, or medallions. The apron is usually trimmed with ribbon or fringe. The side drops may be loom beaded strips or finger woven yarn. chokers may consist of silk scarves, beaded strips or bone hair pipes. Necklaces with medallion drops are also seen. A standard porky/deer-tail roach with two feathers attached to a rocker assembly tops the head, often with decoratively trimmed side feathers. Each dancer carries either a loose or flat fan and often a tubular whistle. Ribbon shirts are becoming more common, as are matching cape and aprons.


Ladies Cloth

Ladies Cloth is a form of women's dress and has both a Northern and Southern style. The Southern style is danced by the Kiowas, Osage, Ponca, and others. The Northern style is danced by the Sioux, Crow, and others. The dance is a slow and graceful one much like the Women's Buckskin style.

There are many tribal variations with the outfit, including wearing a cloth dress or a wool dress and others. The basic outfit consists of several parts. The boots are a high top moccasins that is usually partially beaded. The dress is a long dress with open sleeves. The bottom of the dress is covered in a wrap that is usually a contrasting color or pattern. The wrap is sometimes fringed like a shawl. This style has a breast plate similar to the Buckskin dress. This breastplate however has a front and back to it as opposed to the one sided style worn by Buckskin dancers. The belt is either silver conchos or beaded with a drag. The women also wear three other items on the belt are the awl case, strike a lit and tobacco pouch. The dancer sometimes wears a scarf and choker. They also will carry a fan, purse and shawl.


Men’s Grass

Grass Dancing always stands out by virtue of two things: his dancing style and his outfit. His dancing has been described often by these words:" gutsy, swinging, slick, old-time," etc. His outfit stands out by virtue of the almost complete absence of feathers, for aside from the roach feather, there are no bustles of any kind to be seen. The outfit consists of shirt and pants, with beaded or otherwise decorated belt and side tabs, armbands, cuffs, and front and back apron, with matched headband and moccasins, if available. Ribbons and fringe are the only mobile parts of his outfit, other than the roach feather. In other words, the outfit is made to conform to the style of dancing.

Some believe that Grass Dancing came from young boys tying grass on their outfits. Before a dance could be held on the prairie the grass had to be stomped down. This is where many of the movements are believed to com e from. Afterwards the dancers would tie the grass to their outfit. Many believe that the Omaha tribe originated the dance in their warrior societies.

The name "Grass Dance" comes from the custom of some tribes wearing braided grass in their belts.

The unique parts of the northern outfit are the shirt, trousers, and aprons, to which yarn fringe, sequins, and beaded rosettes other designs are attached. The outfit makers are fond of using playing card designs-hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. Hearts and rosettes are the most common. White fringe is preferred, however, gold, silver, and other light color fringe is also used.

Bells are worn around the ankle. Mostly plains hard-sole, or woodland soft-sole moccasins, and sneakers are worn.The apron is probably the, most striking part.

The front apron (or breech cloth) is decorated with beadwork, ribbon work, or a combination. The back apron has several colors of ribbons sewn in V-shapes. The ends hang loose for two to three feet. Ribbons also hand from the center . Belts are usually fully beaded. A "holster" or drop is worn on each side of the belt and reaches to shin level.

They are fully or partially beaded. Ideally, all of the beadwork matches. It may be floral, geometric, a combination of both. Characteristic of the outfit are the large, fully beaded cuffs or gauntlets, arm bands, chokers, occasional loop necklaces or breastplates, beaded collars and ties, and colorful scarves. The real prize is the beaded harness which reaches from the shoulders to below the knees. The two strips are usually connected by a large piece of beadwork which forms and hence the name "H-harness." Tassels or ribbons hang from the end of the harness.

The perfect headdress is the porcupine hair roach which is attached to a head harness. It is decorated with rosettes, hearts, etc., and long drop stripped with fluffs, or drops made from chains or cafe curtain rings.

Dancers carry fans, eagle-bone or carved 'screen" whistles (some are made from metal tubes), mirror boards, and dance hoops of various sizes.


Women’s Buckskin

The oldest form of women's dance, is Buckskin. This is a dance of elegance and grace. The movement is smooth and flowing.

The ladies wear fine, hand-crafted buckskin dresses, decorated with intricate bead designs. Northern dresses are fully beaded on the shoulders, or cape. Southern ones, the beadwork is mainly used to accent. They are equally beautiful. The women carry fringed shawls over one arm. Much like the Men's

Traditional Dance, there are many tribal and regional differences in the outfitting of this women's style. The jewelry is breath taking. Breastplates made from hair bone pipe, and glass beads can hang to the waist, or all the way to the ankles.

The latter is Northern, the former, Southern. Hair barrettes are hand beaded, and beaded pieces for the fur that hangs from the lady's hair can be quite intricate indeed. Some ladies, who have either been princesses, or the younger ones who are princesses still, wear beaded crowns, given to them by their societies. The moccasins are either fully beaded (Northern), or accent beaded (Southern).

Ladies' Buckskin dancing is slow, and poised. Circling the drum, they bob to the beat of the drum, letting the long fringe on their sleeves sway in time. They carry a beaded purse, swinging it as well, and a shawl, folded on the arm, swaying likewise.

These highly respected women dance in rhythm with the drum by swaying and slightly bending at their knees. These movements are very slight. This slight movement, however, creates a beautiful effect in moving their leather fringe in a breezy swaying motion. Northern dresses usually have fully beaded yokes, while Southern dresses have applique beadwork.


© 2022 WilCo Pow Wow. All Rights Reserved • Website Design by Visionary Design Group