Powwow Dance Styles

Powwow Dance Styles

There are three separate powwow dance styles that you will see as boys and girls compete at St. Joseph’s Indian School’s wačhípi. Students specialize in one of these styles.

Boy’s Grass Dance

Adapted from the Omaha tribe, the grass dance is the first dance performed in order to flatten the long grass in preparation for the wačhípi. The movement and long colorful fringe on the regalia simulate the flowing grasses of the prairie. A porcupine hair roach or pȟeša graces all male dancers’ heads in this free-styled, symmetrical dance that follows the changing beat of the drum.

Boy’s Traditional Dance

The traditional dance tells the story of a battle or hunt with movements patterned after animals, birds, or the tracking of the same. Dancers carry items such as a shield or honor staff to symbolize their status as warriors. Regalia, in subdued earth tones, is decorated with beads and porcupine quillwork and includes a circular feather bustle and a breastplate.

Boy’s Fancy Dance

The newest form of powwow dance, the fancy dance originated in Oklahoma when the powwow became a more of a public event. The dance is noted for its speed and includes intricate footwork, acrobatic steps and movements. More vividly colored than traditional regalia, fancy dance regalia includes two brilliantly colored bustles and can include a breach cloth, cape, bells, fur, sticks, armband and more.

Girl’s Jingle Dance

This dance originated in Minnesota with the dream of a holy man. The dancer waves a feather fan to honor the drum, the heartbeat of the people. Regalia is made of beautiful cloth adorned with hundreds of rolled metal cones that jingle with the dancer’s movement.

Girl’s Traditional Dance

The movement of this dance simulates the way a woman would turn and look for her warrior’s return from battle or hunt. The dancer acknowledges certain words or phrases in a song by raising a feather fan. Regalia is made of animal skin or trade cloth in ceremonial colors and is adorned with ribbon, beadwork, elk teeth or shells. The outfit is accented with decorated moccasins, a belt with a knife sheath, a breastplate and various pieces of jewelry. Today, shawls have replaced the blankets and buffalo robes that were traditionally worn.

Girl’s Fancy Dance

Footwork synchronized with shawl movement is the important element of this dance, which simulates the movement of a butterfly or bird. Regalia is a shawl worn with a yoke. A dress or skirt, matching leggings, beaded moccasins and jewelry accessorize the outfit.