Dance and the lives of Native Americans has always been intertwined. Whether it be for general entertainment or for ceremony. Many tribes have their own dances and rituals with dance and music which reflect aspects of their beliefs. The dances often have movements within that are an expression of purpose and intent, animals and birds, habitat and other things which are of significance to them. In addition to public dances, there were also private and semi-public dances for healing, prayer, initiation, storytelling, and courting.
Many of the dances were and still are done to the sound of the drum but others are performed with rattles, bells and shakers too. Dances performed at Pow Wows are a spectacle to behold with beautiful costumes intricately made and highly decorated regalia.
Examples of dances are:-
The Grass Dance..one of the nature-based dances, the Grass Dance is performed with fluid and graceful choreography. Representative of "harmony in the universe," body motions simulate the movements of long prairie grass blowing with a spring wind. The drum beat is the "mover" and the dancer's body is the blade of grass responding to this invisible push.
The Rain Dance...Usually taking place in late August, ancient tribes depended upon this ritualistic movement to summon the rain to come and restore their resources during the driest time of year.
Today, the rain dance is more symbolic than spiritual, however many tribes continue to make it part of their culture. Both men and women participate in rain dances, wearing specially designed headdresses and costumes designated for the occasion. The use of turquoise is also especially significant, and the dance is rarely performed without the incorporation of this precious stone.
There are few pow wow dances as symphonic, as the Jingle Dress Dance, especially when there are multiple female dancers moving together. The rows of metal cones, called ziibaaska’iganan
in the Ojibew language, dangle from the dresses and rattle and clink as the dancers move. The traditional dance required the dancers to never cross their feet, never dance backward, and never complete circle. They kept footwork light, nimble, and close to the ground. Modern Jingle Dress Dance allows more fluidity, the dancers can cross their feet, can complete full circles, and can dance backwards. The dresses are designed so they can move more freely, but the metal cones remain, singing along, while the dancer often carries a feather fan during the dance.