How to dance native american

Native American Dances – Legends of America

Buffalo Dance Group by Awa Tsireh


Dances have always been significant in the lives of Native Americans as both a common amusement and a solemn duty. Many dances played a vital role in religious rituals and other ceremonies; while others were held to guarantee the success of hunts, harvests, giving thanks, and other celebrations.

Commonly, dances were held in a large structure or in an open field around a fire. Movements of the participants illustrated the purpose of the dance — expressing prayer, victory, thanks, mythology, and more. Sometimes a leader was chosen, on others, a specific individual, such as a war leader or medicine man would lead the dance. Many tribes danced only to the sound of a drum and their own voices; while others incorporated bells and rattles. Some dances included solos, while others included songs with a leader and chorus. Participants might include the entire tribe, or would specific to men, women, or families. In addition to public dances, there were also private and semi-public dances for healing, prayer, initiation, storytelling, and courting.

Dance continues to be an important part of Native American culture. The dances are regionally or tribally specific and the singers usually perform in their native languages. Depending upon the dance, sometimes visitors are welcomed; while, at other times, the ceremonies are private.

This list of dances is far from all-encompassing, as there were literally hundreds of dances and variations across the continent.

Dancing Associations

Fancy Dance

Ghost Dance – A Promise of Fulfillment

Gourd Dance

Grass Dance

Hoop Dance

Hopi Snake Dance

Rain Dance

Stomp Dance

Sun Dance

War Dance

Dance of the Mandan Indians by Karl Bodmer


Sioux Dance, by John Graybill, 1890.


Dancing Associations:

There were a number of semi-religious festivals or ceremonies in which a large number of individuals participated which were handed from one tribe to another. One of the best-known examples of the Plains Indians was the Omaha or Grass Dance which was also practiced by the Arapaho, Pawnee, Omaha, Dakota, Crow, Gros Ventre, Assiniboin, and Blackfoot. Its regalia is thought to have originated with the Pawnee, who taught the dance to the Dakota Sioux in about 1870. The Sioux, in turn, shared it with the Arapaho and Gros Ventre, who taught it to the Blackfoot. Later, the Blackfoot carried the dance to the Flathead and Kootenai tribes to the west.

Meetings of these associations were held at night in large circular wooden buildings erected for that purpose. Some of the dancers wore large feather bustles, called crow belts, and a peculiar roached headdress made of hair. A feast of dog’s flesh was often served. Members of some of these associations were often known to have helped the poor and practice acts of self-denial.

Other dances, such as the Cree Dance, Gourd Dance, and horseback dances also had associations. However, from tribe to tribe, each had its own distinct ceremonies and songs, to which additions were made from time to time.

Fancy Dance:

Fancy Dancer, image courtesy Wikipedia

Not a historical dance tradition of any tribe, the Fancy Dance was created by members of the Ponca tribe in the 1920s and 1930s, in an attempt to preserve their culture and religion. At this time, Native American religious dances were outlawed by the United States and Canadian governments. Traditional dances went “underground,” to avoid government detection. However, this dance, loosely based on the traditional War Dance, was considered appropriate to be performed for visitors on reservations and at “Wild West” shows. Two young Ponca boys are specifically credited with developing the fast-paced dance that the audiences loved and the Ponca Tribe soon built their own dance arena in White Eagle, Oklahoma.

Within no time, other tribes continued the practice and created new dances that could legally be danced in public. In the 1930s, the Kiowa and Comanche created new styles of dance regalia that was incorporated into the Fancy Dance.

Even before the Fancy Dance was established, an intertribal Pow-Wow circuit had already been organized where various tribes held dance contests. These became an important source of revenue during the Great Depression. In the late 1930s, women also began to perform in the Fancy Dance

The dance is fast-paced, colorful, and highly energetic, often including tricks and extremely athletic movements. Dancing regalia includes brightly colored feather bustles and headwear, beaded bodices, leggings, shawls, and moccasins. Clothes are also decorated with fringe, feathers, embroidery or ribbon work, and other rich designs. Beaded cuffs, chokers, earrings, bracelets, and eagle plumes are also worn. Fancy dancers are the most common scene in public exhibitions today and the dance has also become a competitive sport.

Ghost Dance of the Sioux, Illustrated in London News, 1891

Ghost Dance – A Promise of Fulfillment 

The Ghost Dance (Natdia) is a spiritual movement that came about in the late 1880s when conditions were bad on Indian reservations and Native Americans needed something to give them hope.  This movement found its origin in a Paiute Indian named Wovoka, who announced that he was the messiah come to earth to prepare the Indians for their salvation. See full article HERE.

Gourd Dance

Believed to have originated with the Kiowa tribe, gourd dances are often held to coincide with a Pow-Wow, although it has its own unique dance and history. Kiowa legend has it that when a man was out alone he heard an unusual song coming from the other side of a hill. Investigating, he found the song was coming from a red wolf who was dancing on its hind legs. After listening to more songs through the night, the next morning the wolf told him to take the songs and dance back to the Kiowa people. The “howl” at the end of each gourd dance song is a tribute to the red wolf. The dance in the Kiowa language is called “Ti-ah pi-ah” which means “ready to go, ready to die.”

Gourd Dance, photo courtesy Gathering of Nations.

The Comanche and Cheyenne, also have legends about the gourd dance. The ceremony soon spread to other tribes and societies.

The dance is performed by men but women can participate by dancing in place behind the men and outside the circular arena. The drum can be placed on the side or in the center of the circle and the dancers perform around the perimeter of the area, usually dancing in place. The dance is simple, with the participants lifting their heels with the beat of the drum and shaking their rattles. The dress is also not elaborate, with sashes being worn by the dancers, around the waist or draped around the neck, reaching the ground.

Beginning in 1890 the United States government began to actively enforce bans on these dances and by the 1930’s it was out of practice. However, several tribes have resurrected the dance today. Some gourd societies do not distinguish race as criteria for joining, even allowing non-Native Americans to be inducted into their gourd societies. However, the Kiowa allow only members who are half-blood or more. During Pow-Wows today, gourd dancing generally occurs before the Grand Entry. The rattles used in Pow-Wows are not made of a gourd; but rather a tin or silver cylinder filled with beads on a beaded handle.

Grass Dance, Wikipedia

Grass Dance

One of the oldest and most widely used dances in Native American culture, it was the job of the grass dancers to flatten the grass in the arena before other important celebrations. However, the name “grass” does not come from the stomping down the terrain; but, rather, from the old habit of tying braids of sweetgrass to the dancer’s belts, which produced a swaying effect. Traditionally a men’s’ dance only, it is thought to have begun with the northern Plains Indians, particularly the Omaha-Ponca and the Dakota Sioux. An old legend tells that it was created by a handicapped Northern Plains boy who had a desire to dance. After consulting a Medicine Man, he was instructed to seek inspiration on the prairie. Following the advice, he went alone out on the plains where he had a vision of himself dancing in the style of the swaying grasses. When he returned to the camp, he shared his vision and was said to have eventually later able to use his legs, performing the first grass dance. In addition to its practical purpose, another objective of the dance is to honor and respect the ancestors and to gain spiritual strength from their mother earth. A popular dance today in which both men and women participate, the is dance is full of color and movement. Dancers resemble a multicolored swaying mass of yarn or fringe which represents grass. As the dancers move in fluid and bending positions to the music, their positions replicate the movement of grass blowing in the breezes. The dance today is largely intertribal, owing to its longevity, in part, to the modernization of ceremonies prompted by early 20th-century oppression. Special blessings are not only bestowed upon the dancers but to observers as well.

Hoop Dance

Hoop Dance, courtesy Wikipedia.

Going back for centuries, the Hoop Dance is a storytelling dance, which incorporates from 1-40 hoops to create both static and dynamic shapes. These formations represent the movements of various animals and other storytelling elements. In its earliest form, the dance is believed to have been part of a healing ceremony designed to restore balance and harmony in the world. With no beginning or end, the hoop represents the never-ending circle of life. The hoops, typically made of reeds or wood, are used to create symbolic shapes, including butterflies, turtles, eagles, flowers, and snakes.

There are several tales of how the dance originated. Some say the Creator gave a series of wooden hoops and the “dance” to a dying man from the Northern Plains who wanted a gift to leave behind. Another story in the Southwest tells that the hoops were developed by cliff-dwellers for children to learn dexterity.

A more prominent legend has the Hoop Dance originating in the Anishinaabe culture when an unearthly spirit was born to live amongst the people. The boy did not show any interest in typical boys activities such as running and hunting, preferring to be alone and watch animals. This caused his father to shun him and earned him the name Pukawiss: the disowned or unwanted. However, the boy continued to watch the movements of eagles, bears, snakes, and birds and before long was spinning like an eagle in flight, hopping through the grass like a rabbit, and created the Hoop Dance to teach the other Indians about the ways of the animals. Before long, Pukawiss was so popular that every village wanted to learn the dance.

Today, the Hoop Dance remains popular. It is generally performed by a solo dancer who begins with a single hoop, evoking the circle of life. Additional hoops are added representing other life elements, including humans, animals, wind, water, and seasons. The dance incorporates very rapid moves in which the hoops are made to interlock and extended from the body forming appendages such as wings and tails. Practiced by a number of tribes today, it has evolved over the years, becoming faster and incorporating many non-traditional influences. It has also become a highly competitive event, with the first World Hoop Dance Competition held at the New Mexico State Fair in 1991. Today, the most popular competition is held annually at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

Hopi Snake Dance 

Antelope priests chanting at Kisi Moki snake dance, Hopi, Detroit Photographic, 1902

The most widely publicized of Hopi rituals was the Snake Dance, held annually in late August, during which the performers dance with live snakes in their mouths. The dance is thought to have originated as a water ceremony because snakes were the traditional guardians of springs. Today, it is primarily a rain ceremony and to honor Hopi ancestors. The tribe regards snakes as their “brothers” and rely on them to carry their prayers for rain to the gods and spirits of their ancestors.

The Snake Dance requires two weeks of ritual preparation, during which time the snakes are gathered and watched over by children until time for the dance. On the last day of the 16-day celebration, the dance is performed. By percentage of the local snake population, most are rattlesnakes, but all are handled freely.

Before the dance begins the participants take an emetic (probably a sedative herb) which is not an anti-venom and then dance with the snakes in their mouths. There is usually an Antelope Priest in attendance who helps with the dance, sometimes stroking the snakes with a feather or supporting their weight. The dance includes swaying, rattles, a guttural chant and circling of the plaza with snakes. After the dance, the snakes are released in the four directions to carry the prayers of the dancers. Although part of the Snake Dance is performed for the tribe, this is only a portion of a lengthy ceremony, most of which is conducted privately in kivas.

Though the dance was once open to the public, it is now open to only tribal members due to illegal photography and a lack of respect for the traditions and ceremonial practices of the Hopi.

Rain Dance

Chief Turtle, Rain Dance in Montana., Bain News Service, 1920.

This ceremonial dance is performed by numerous agricultural peoples, especially in the southwest, where summers can be extremely dry. The ceremony was performed to ask the spirits or gods to send rain for the tribes ‘ crops. The dance usually takes place during the spring planting season and before crops are harvested. However, it was also performed in times when rain was desperately needed.

One thing that makes rain dances unique from some other ceremonial dances is that both men and women participate in the ceremony. The dance varies from tribe to tribe, each having their own unique rituals and costumes. Some tribes wear large headdresses while others wear masks. Accessories often include paint on the body, beads, animal skins, horse and goat hair, feathers, embroidered aprons, and jewelry made of leather, silver, and turquoise. Feathers and the color blue are often found in dress and accessories, symbolizing the wind and rain, respectively. These special clothes and accessories which were worn during the rain dance were generally not worn at other times of the year, but rather, were stored for this specific ceremony. Dance steps usually involve moving in a zigzag pattern as opposed to other ceremonial dances that involve standing in a circle.

Stories of the origins of ceremonial dances have been passed from generation to generation orally. When the Native Americans were relocated in the 19th century, the United States government banned certain tribal ceremonial dances. In some regions, tribal members would tell federal authorities that they were performing a “rain dance” rather than disclosing the fact they were actually performing one of the banned ceremonies.

Though the rain dance was most often performed by tribes in the southwest such as the Puebloan, Hopi, Zuni, and Apache, other tribes also performed the ceremony, including the Cherokee in the Southeastern United States. Many tribes continue to perform this ceremony today.

Stomp Dance

Creek Stomp Dance, courtesy National Park Service.

Performed by various Eastern Woodland tribes including the Muscogee Creek, Yuchi, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Caddo, Delaware, Miami, Ottawa, Peoria, Shawnee, Seminole, Natchez, and Seneca–Cayuga, the Stomp Dance is a ceremony that contains both religious and social meaning. The term “Stomp Dance” is an English term, which refers to the “shuffle and stomp” movements of the dance. In the native Muskogee language, the dance is called Opvnkv Haco, which can mean “drunken,” “crazy,” or “inspirited” dance, referring to the effect the medicine and dance have on the participants. A nighttime event, the dance is affiliated with the Green Corn Ceremony by the Muscogee Creek, Cherokee, and other Southeastern Indians.

These dances are generally performed several times during the summer months to ensure the community’s well being. Performed by both men and women, these events may include some 30 or more performances, each sung by a different leader and may also include other dances such as the Duck Dance, Friendship Dance, or the Bean Dance.

When a leader begins, he circles the sacred fire and is followed in a single file by those who wish to participate. Leading the dancers counter-clockwise around the fire, participants sing, shake leg rattles, and dance in a stomping step. Men and women alternate positions behind the leader, organizing themselves by age and skill, with the youngest and least experienced dancers at the end of the line.

Dancing typically starts well after dark and continues until the dawn of the next day. Participants who are making a religious commitment will begin fasting after midnight and are obligated to stay awake the whole night. The “medicine” taken by participants is made from roots and plants which have been ceremonially gathered and prepared by a Healer. Dancing continues until the sun rises, at which point the event is concluded.

Sun Dance

Sun Dance ceremony by George Catlin

The Sun Dance is practiced primarily by tribes in the Upper Plains and Rocky Mountain areas. This annual ceremony is typically performed at the summer solstice, with preparations beginning up to a year before the ceremony. Though the dance is practiced differently by different tribes, the Eagle serves as a central symbol in the dance, helping bring body and spirit together in harmony, as does the buffalo, for its essential role in Plains Indian food, clothing, and shelter. Many of the ceremonies have features in common, such as specific dances and songs passed down through many generations, the use of a traditional drum, praying with the pipe, offerings, fasting, and in some cases the ceremonial piercing of the skin. Although not all sun dance ceremonies include dancers being ritually pierced, the object of the sun dance is to offer personal sacrifice as a prayer for the benefit of one’s family and community.

In the late 1800s, the U.S. government made an attempt to suppress the Sun Dance. The Cheyenne ceremony “went underground” and reemerged in the twentieth century. In August 1890 the Kiowa Sun Dance was disrupted by rumors of army patrols and the dance abandoned. However, in September of that year, the first Ghost Dance was held, and for many years it took the place of the Sun Dance. The last Ponca sun dance was held in 1908. The policy of government suppression ended with the issuance of the 1934 circular Indian Religious Freedom and Indian Culture, and since then Sun Dances intermittently have continued to be held.

War Dance

War dance of the Sauk and Fox, Peter Rindisbacher, about 1830.

Many tribes practiced a War Dance on the evening before an attack to observe certain religious rites to ensure success. The warriors took part in a war dance while contemplating retaliation and the dance stirred emotions and filled the braves with a profound sense of purpose as they prepared for battle. Though the ceremonies varied from one tribe to another, there are common points among many including singing, often extending over an entire day and night, interspersed with prayers, handling of sacred objects or bundles, and occasional dancing. Often a sweat lodge or other purification ceremony was also held, incense burned, faces might be painted, and a pipe was frequently passed between the participants. Generally, the only musical instruments used in these ceremonies are rattles, drums, and whistles. In the Pacific Northwest, the Pueblos of the Southwest, and the Iroquois of the Woodlands, participants often were dressed and masked to represent the various gods or supernatural creatures and who acted out parts of the ritual.

War Dance names vary among Indian communities, with the Fancy Dance incorporating war dance rituals of the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa – Apache tribes. To the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes,  the wolf is symbolically linked to a warrior and the ritual is called the “Wolf Dance.” The Lakota Sioux Omaha dance is named after the Omaha tribe, who taught the dance to the Lakota, and the war dance is known to Utah’s Paiute tribe as the Fancy Bustle, in reference to part of the dancer’s costume.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2020.

Also See:

Native American Medicine

Native American Photo Galleries

Native American Religion

Native American Rituals and Ceremonies

Traditional Native American Dances and Their Importance – Tachini Drums

Traditional Native American Dances and Their Importance


  • November 30,2020
  • Tachini Drums

To Native Americans, dance is a form of awe-inspiring storytelling that honors their culture, departed ancestors, and more. Most dances are regionally or tribally specific. There are hundreds of them, with variations existing from tribe to tribe. Traditional dances commonly take place in an open field, around a blazing fire or central drum, or in a long structure, such as a longhouse. The steps mimic the movement of people or animals or symbolize simple gestures, whether that’s expressing prayer, victory, or thanks. Some dances are led by specific individuals, while others are a community effort. They can include the entire tribe or be specific to men, women, families, or participants of a certain age. Some dances incorporate nothing but drums and the voices of the singers, while others include instruments like rattles and bells.

Dancing continues to play an important role in Native American culture. Traditional dances can be an ordinary aspect of everyday living, or they can have special significance at cultural or spiritual ceremonies, like powwows. To learn more about traditional Native American dances and their importance, read on.

There’s more than one type of traditional Native American dance, but some are more well-known than others. Listed below are some of the various styles of Native American dance, where they originate, and what they symbolize.

Grass Dance

The Grass Dance is one of the oldest-known tribal dances. Dancers perform this to pay respects to departed ancestors and to ask Mother Earth for strength. Originally performed by men, the dance has evolved to include participants of both genders. The movements of the dance mimic the swaying of grass in a light breeze. The dancers wear headdresses, fringes, and ribbons that sway in tune with their steps.

The Grass Dance originates from the Plains Indians, specifically the Omaha-Ponca and Dakota Sioux. According to legend, its original creator was a disabled child who wanted to dance but couldn’t on account of his injured legs. Saddened by his inability to dance, the boy consulted a Medicine Man, who instructed him to seek inspiration in a big, open field. The swaying grasses of the field inspired the boy to create the Grass Dance, which he shared with the rest of the tribe. Later, the boy miraculously recovered the use of his legs.

Hoop Dance

The Hoop Dance is an exciting, dynamic storytelling dance. It incorporates the use of hoops constructed from either reeds or wood. Since circles have no beginning and no end, the Natives use them to symbolize the never-ending circle of life. During the Hoop Dance, a sole performer swings hoops around in the air to create symbolic shapes, usually of butterflies, turtles, eagles, flowers, and snakes.

The Hoop Dance has multiple origin stories, but the most famous comes from the Anishinaabe tribe. The story tells of an unearthly boy who lived amongst the tribe. He showed no interest in running and hunting and preferred to watch animals instead. Disappointed, his father disowned him. But despite his father’s disapproval, the boy continued to observe the animals and, gradually, learned to move like them. He created the Hoop Dance to teach others about the animals and their way of life. Today, the Hoop Dance is a popular, highly competitive form of Native American dance.

Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance symbolizes the regeneration of Earth and the joy of humankind. The participants dance to awaken and communicate with their ancestors. The hope is that the dance will give people closure upon the death of their loved ones.

The Ghost Dance originated during the 1880s when conditions on Native American reservations were dismal. Its creator was a Paiute tribesman named Wovoka, who claimed to have vivid dreams of salvation for the Native American people. In his dreams, the Native Americans flew into the sky while a brand-new Earth formed. Once the new planet was complete, they returned alongside the ghosts of their ancestors. The most famous and tragic performance of the Ghost Dance took place at the Battle of Wounded Knee, where American soldiers gunned down countless people from the Lakota tribe.

Gourd Dance

The Gourd Dance originated with the Kiowa tribe but quickly spread to other tribes and societies, including the Comanche and Cheyenne. Traditionally, men perform the dance, but it allows for the inclusion of women, who dance outside the circular arena. A drum sits on the side of or in the center of a circle. Performers gather around it and dance in place, lifting their heels to the beat of the drum and shaking their rattles. The rattles the dancers use aren’t made from gourds but from tin or silver cylinders filled with beads. Meanwhile, their attire is simple and ornamented with long, simple sashes that sweep across the ground. At modern powwows, the Gourd Dance usually takes place before the Grand Entry.

Stomp Dance

The Stomp Dance is a staple of the Chickasaw tribe. However, other Eastern Woodland tribes also perform it, including the Muscogee Creek, Yuchi, Cherokee Choctaw, Ottawa, Peoria, Shawnee, Natchez, and Seneca-Cayuga. The dance begins after dark and continues until dawn of the following day. It begins with a ground leader. Carrying a shell shaker, the leader walks toward a ceremonial fire with the rest of the performers following their lead. Placement of the performers depends on age and skill, with the younger dancers positioned near the back. Men and women alternate in line and walk clockwise around the fire. At some point, the lead singer speaks to the Creator and requests something: either an item or an act. According to legend, the Creator will grant whatever the singer requests within four days.

Sun Dance

The Sun Dance was an important religious ceremony to the Plains Indians throughout the 19th century. Today, multiple tribes still practice it. The ceremony both begins and ends at sunset. It takes place during the summer solstice and can last anywhere from four to eight days. The dance symbolizes the infinite continuity of life and the dependence of life on the continuity of nature. Its purpose is to give thanks to the eagle for bringing harmony between body and spirit and to the buffalo for its role in Native American food, clothing, and shelter. It’s practiced differently depending on the region but shares some common features, like the use of a traditional drum, offerings, fasting, and, in some cases, the ceremonial piercing of skin.

Learning about some of the traditional Native American dances and their importance is crucial to Native Americans’ day-to-day lives and helps them connect with their culture and spirituality.

Drums are an important part of traditional Native American dance. Are you searching for authentic, high-quality Native American drums for sale? Tachini Drums carries drums, rattles, and other drum accessories that can help you connect with the heartbeat of Mother Earth.

American Indian dances Online publication "Elements of Dance"

Once every two years, the US capital becomes a haven for the largest national holiday, where you can meet representatives of almost all Indian tribes in America and Canada. The celebration, held in Washington since the late 19th century, is an important event in the life of the indigenous population of the country, which allows preserving ancient cultural traditions intact, sharing them with everyone, and dispelling the stereotypes that have developed among the majority. nine0003 Not savages, but a people with a multifaceted and original culture, modern American Indians honor their ancestors and carry over from century to century unshakable values, which are especially clearly reflected in song and dance art.

The surroundings are impressive!
Fringes, feather headdresses, an abundance of bright colors, energetic movements, traditional drums - American Indian dances are easily recognizable. They are always symbolic, representing a kind of spiritual practice, through which connections are established between a person and the environment, the forces of nature. nine0004

By the way, according to the Indians themselves, the best drum is obtained by pulling a deer or elk skin over a hardwood frame. 6-8 men can sit around the large round drum, beating the rhythm and performing a tribal song. The dancers, more often one or two, depict the moments of the hunt, something consonant with the lyrics of the song or traditional dance moves. In their hands you can often see a small battle hatchet (the same tomahawk ) or a bow. Everything is as if centuries have not passed. nine0004

In suits - the dominance of fighting spirit
One of the most impressive details of the man's costume is a chic fan made of painted feathers of birds of prey, most often eagles. The fan is put on at the back and fastened on the belt. It is quite heavy, as it reaches a full meter in scope. The coloring of the fan is of a combat nature, each color and pattern symbolizes something related to the attack. On top of the feathers, two shafts can be fixed - symbols of military arrows. Each copy is unique, two similar fans simply do not exist. This is a kind of demonstration of the "military awards" of the Indian, because all the feathers that are used in it - the man personally extracts all his life. These colorful regalia are the true pride of the dancer. nine0004

Indian dances In some tribes there are such ritual dances that last from dusk to dawn for several nights. A dancer performing such a ritual is like a conductor between the tribe and the divine principle, and if he falls, you can expect a drought or a hurricane.

Despite the fact that some Indian tribes adopted Christianity, the deification of the forces of nature is still relevant among them. Depending on what energies need to be awakened, dances are also divided. nine0003 Since ancient times, the agricultural tribes performed the Dance of the Corn, while their brothers, living by hunting, worshiped the Bison, holding many days of ritual events in honor of the animal that feeds them. The man performing the Dance of the Buffalo wore a special outfit, including a headdress that imitated the head of this animal. The dance meant gratitude for the sacrifice, for the meat and skin of the buffalo received. Today, the Indians carefully protect the herds of bison, which, thanks to the advent of white people, were practically destroyed, and this dance is demonstrated with pleasure at traditional Spell Festivals. nine0003 Nowadays, modern dances, originating in the cultural heritage of past centuries, are becoming more common among American Indians. For example, the Dance of the Grass, which emerged two hundred years ago, recently gained popularity, and with it a rebirth. It is performed by men whose clothes are decorated with a fringe symbolizing grass. Initially, the dance was part of a whole system that brought healing from ailments.
Healing power is also attributed to the female Dance with bells: bells completely adorn the outfit of the dancers, and therefore their every movement is accompanied by ringing. It is worth noting that earlier women were rarely allowed to ritual dances, assigning them a secondary role in such an important art, but over time they were allowed to dance on an equal footing with men: to go to the middle of the circle to show their own skills, to take part in pair dances. Very graceful are the women's Dances with a colored shawl, which are very popular these days. nine0003 The eagle is another symbol personified in Indian dances. Its importance leaves no doubt - this bird is called the ambassador of the Great Spirit, because it soars high in the sky and is closest to the sun. The action dedicated to the eagle is performed by men: their clothes are decorated with feathers, the bundles of which are attached to the sleeves, symbolizing wings.
An unusual performance is a dance with hoops, in which an Indian uses up to 30 hoops to create forms depicting turtles, butterflies, snakes, flowers, eagles and other living creatures. nine0003 Native American dances are characterized by a clear correspondence to the drum rhythm - this is especially evident in energetic male performances (for example, in the modern Dream Dance). The performer must carefully listen to the drums, and complete the movement with their last beat.

Traditional American Indian Dances (part 4, foreign influence)




| Folk dances

Social dances

American Indian dances

Traditional dances of the New World were mainly influenced by the dance traditions of northern Europe. Most of the Euro-American dances did not take root among the Indians, and the Iroquois completely rejected them with anger. Among the few dances clearly influenced by Euro-American traditions are the Jazz-like war dance of the Oklahoma Indians, which was danced in pairs, the social dances of the Pueblo tribes, and several Latin American couple dances. nine0004

American Indian dances

The Spanish influence is quite different. Iberian dance movements are found in virtually all dances in Mesoamerica and western South America. However, it cannot be argued that these are Europeanized dances, since they have been adapted to local traditions.

American Indian dances

In some of the ritual dances of the Indians, elements of the adapted mazurka, waltz, and steps of other European dances are found. Also, similar movements are found in some secular pair dances, for example, in the Mexican jarabe. Often the most significant religious dances are actually taken from medieval religious performances such as "Moros y cristianos" ("Moors and Christians") and matachina dances (which are performed only by men). nine0004

Native American dances

African-American influences on Native American dances can be seen in very distant regions. For example, strong afro elements can be found in the pair dances of the huapango in Vera Cruz, Mexico, in the carnival dances of the garifuna in Belize, in the Panamanian tamborito dance, and in some dances of the coastal regions of Colombia. At the same time, the religious dances of Brazil contain only African and Portuguese elements, with the exception of candomblé de caboclo (the ritual dance of the Candomblé voodoo sect), in which elements of Indian dances are strongly noticeable. Popular Latin American ballroom dances, such as the Brazilian samba, do not contain elements of indigenous dances at all. nine0004

American Indian dances

Regional dance styles

The most distinctive tribal dance practices arose as a result of animistic religious beliefs (beliefs that all objects and living beings have living souls). Traditions gradually changed due to historical migrations of peoples, intertribal contacts and contacts with Europeans. Although many dances died out, some managed to survive the European influence during colonization. To get an accurate picture of the role of dance in traditional Indian society, it is necessary to consider both those dances that disappeared as a result of European colonization and those that were changed due to the influence of European traditions. nine0004

Indian dances, tribal dances, dance history

Share a link

  • All entries
  • Mosaic of site
  • Last comments
  • All blogs
  • Technical support
  • nine0096 Site statistics
  • FAQ

  • Blog tags

    Find a tag:

    Follow @4dancing
    Learn more