MEN’S TRADITIONAL dance tells of former glorious wars or hunting expeditions; these dancers preserve the “old way” of dancing. Through a combination of graceful and dramatic gestures, the traditional dancer tells his story. These men wear exquisite beadwork and feathers that are usually designed after an individual’s particular Nation.
MEN’S GRASS dancers can be recognized by their multi-colored fringe that is often made out of yarn. Their flowing, sweeping movements resemble the tall swaying grass in the breeze.
MEN’S STRAIGHT DANCING is highly formal; regalia is tailored and performance is prestigious. Its overall effect is reassuring solidarity, and it appears highly polished and rehearsed. Everything is closely matched and coordinated, expressing a very holistic feeling. Regalia is most often dark blue, heavy wool, and dancers will carry a mirror board or tail stick, which is provided by the more experienced dancers. Because the dance regalia is so ornate, the dance is slow and proud. The art of beautiful straight dancing consists of perfecting the little things such as body movement and control of regalia. Furthermore, knowledge of dance etiquette can make one an outstanding straight dancer.
MEN’S FANCY dancers are known for their stamina, high jumps, and quick footwork; fancy dancers literally dazzle. Their outfits are constructed of two multi-colored bustles worn around the neck and back, matched beadwork, and whips which are held to emphasize the elaborate gestures of these spirited dancers. It originated with the Ponca Nation in White Eagle, OK.
MEN’S/WOMEN’S GOLDEN AGE dancers must be over the age of 55. This dance style is generally a combination of many different, more traditional dances, and it exemplifies the passion which American Indians embody when dancing. Because there is not a single trait that indicates a golden age dance, it is often up to the dancers to provide their own unique touch and make the dance truly their own.
WOMEN’S BUCKSKIN is the oldest form of women’s dancing and is considered a dance of elegance. Ladies wear fine, fully-beaded, hand-crafted buckskin dresses, adorned with ornate breast plates made from hair bone pipe and glass beads. Buckskin dancing is slow and poised, and the dancers circle the drum while bobbing to the beat. The movements of this dance are slight, but because of the intricacies of the dance regalia, these slight movements create a beautiful swaying motion.
WOMEN’S JINGLE DRESS dances are revered as a healing dance and based upon an Ojibwe man’s dream. Cones shaped from chewing tobacco lids are positioned upon masterfully designed dresses. Traditionally, 365 cones have been placed on the dresses to represent the days of the year.
WOMEN’S CLOTH dances are a more specific type of women’s dress dancing and can be traced to both northern and southern roots. Women’s cloth dance regalia is crucial to its identification as a unique dance type. The regalia worn ranges from intricately sewn, ribbon-work cloth dresses to hide-beaded dresses covered with cowry shells, elk teeth, silver, and other adornments. Some dancers will dance clockwise, while others will stand in one place, turning to either side from time to time.
WOMEN’S FANCY SHAWL dancers are compared to the movements of the butterfly; these dancers wear brightly colored shawls over their shoulders. Beadwork and accessories match the multi-fringed shawls, creating a splendor of spinning and fancy footwork.
TINY TOTS DANCING is performed by children as young as two years old. This dance style is a combination of several other more traditional styles. Tiny tot dancing is a strong indication of the cultural ties which dancing provides – children are taught at a young age that ceremony should be valued.
TEEN & JUNIOR DANCING represents any dancers under the age of 21. Like tiny tot dancing and golden age dancing, junior dancing combines several other dance styles, making it a unique category.