Native American Dance Styles

Dance is a form of expression. Most cultures and nationalities have their own types of dance. The Native American culture has some of the most expressive and colorful dances in the world. These dances differ in origin, speed, step, and regalia: from the Southern Straight dance to the Northern Traditional, from the Northern Grass dance to the Northern Fancy dance.

The first type is known as Southern Straight dance (or the Gentleman's dance). Its origins come from the southern tribes of Oklahoma. It is a slow graceful dance with very purposeful movements. Each dancer is telling a story about some event in his life with his movements. The regalia consist of a basic porcupine hair roach, ribbon shirt, leggings, and bells. The only feathers on the straight dancer are the ones that ornament his scalp and roach.

The second type is the Northern Traditional dance. This dance comes from the northern plains region. This slow paced dance is much like the Southern Straight dance with the exception of the regalia. With this dance the movements are more precise and thought out. The Traditional dancer tells the story of a hunting party with his movements. The regalia are more elaborate and colorful than that of the Straight dancer. The most outstanding feature is the feather bustle, which is worn on the lower back of the dancer.

The third type of dance is the Grass dance, which comes to us from the northern plains and Canada. The Grass dance is a very fast-moving dance that requires both stamina and flexibility. When danced properly, the regalia will sway like the long prairie grass blowing in the wind. It tells the story of the tribes' braves readying the ground for a ceremony. The regalia are composed of leggings, cape, shirt, aprons, and holsters that are adorned with long pieces of brightly colored ribbon or yarn.

The fourth type of dance is the pride of the pow-wow. It is known as the Fancy dance. This is also from the northern tribes. Like the Grass dance, this is a very fast paced dance that requires a lot of stamina and flexibility. The dancers tend to do quite a bit of jumping and twirling around. The dancer's regalia are made up of brightly colored feathers and ribbon. The most impressive pieces are the two large feather bustles worn on the upper and lower portion of the back.

To the Native American, dance is a form of storytelling. All of these dances tell some kind of a story in the life of the narrator. The magnificence of the story is in what the audience perceives.

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