Chapter 3

 

Modern Powwow Dance Styles

 

In this chapter I'll go over the three most popular Men's Dance styles that you'd see if you were going to a powwow throughout the upper Midwest.  I won't, however, go into the detailed process of putting each dance outfit together as it is beyond the scope intended of this book.  There already exist many well-written books on the market for this, so I've instead chosen to make each chapter on overview of the specific dance style.  In other words: what the style is, it's brief history, and the basic components to put an outfit together.  At the end of this chapter I'll give book and video recommendations that should help in the techniques required to put an outfit together.

 

I also recommend the following steps if you choose to create a modern Dance outfit.

1)    Go to powwows and take notes of what you see and what you like.  This has always been something that I've done before starting a new outfit as it helps me to set the parameters of what I want to create.  If you do this remember two very important things.

a.     ASK BEFORE TAKING PICTURES.  There are many Indians who don't like having their picture taking for both personal and cultural reasons.  The best thing to do is ask beforehand to avoid trouble.

b.     BE CAREFUL ABOUT COPYING ANOTHER PATTERN EXACTLY.  Many of the designs and patterns that you see are handed down from one generation to the next and have become identifiers of that particular family.  Not only are they proud of theses patterns, they can be very protective about them as well.  They best thing to do if you want to learn about someone's outfit is to bring them some tobacco and then ask questions.  It will help to give you a direction for your own outfit and will clear up any misunderstandings before they start.

 

2)    Look for craft books and picture books on Modern Powwows.  Barnes and Noble has an entire section devoted to American Indian studies and has many books that can be helpful on Modern Powwow styles.

 

Outfit Color Choices

 

Before I start running down the major points of any outfit style, I want to talk about color choices.  This is the single most important decision that you can make on your outfit. For our discussion here, I'm going to define all color choices or color accents in outfit construction by use of two terms: Primary color, or your main color choice.  And secondary colors, which encompasses all colors other than your primary color.

 

All outfits have one primary color and two to three secondary colors. Be careful about going beyond this as your outfit will look to busy. I also recommend that your secondary colors be used sparingly so that your outfit doesn't look to busy or become to distracting for the eye. Doing this thinking at the start will give your outfit a better "overall" appearance when your done.

 

Here are some color choice examples.

 

Primary Color

White

Blue

Red

Secondary Color

Light Blue

Purple

Purple

Black

Orange

Yellow

White

 

 

Check with your friends or parents at this stage, as they'll give insights that will help you in choosing a good color scheme.  The best resource for me has always been my sisters or mother.  I have to admit that I'm color choice challenged.  If I had to choose, all outfit styles would be flannel and blue jeans.  Having made my share of very poor choices, and endured the resulting teasing as a result, I now regularly get a second opinion.  Making these choices at the very beginning of your outfit construction process will save you the time from having to change things that don't look good together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3-1: Traditional Dance Outfits

First Person Resource: Wally Ripplinger Traditional Dance outfits have so many variations to them that I decided from the start that the best thing I could do to help give a better understanding of them was to interview someone from within the American Indian community.   Wally's story is a fascinating one.  He had no clue about his American Indian Heritage until the death of his Mother, when he discovered that his Indian heritage from the Standing Rock Reservation was covered up in an attempt to save him from the hardships of Indian Boarding schools.  He has since spent extensive amounts of time learning about his ancestry and has been given the Lakota name Iyan Wakan, or Holy Stone.  He was also interviewed for Chapter 5 where he shares more of his thoughts about the American Indian culture.

 

Men's Traditional Dance:

The Men's Northern Traditional style of dance is believed to be one the oldest forms of dancing to still exist. It is said to have originated with members of warrior societies on the Great Plains where, at that time, only the warriors were allowed to dance in the circle. The dance was a form of storytelling where each warrior acted out deeds committed during a battle or hunt. The warriors would dance with exaggerated movements above the waist to simulate hunting, tracking or fighting while striving to keep a heavy, grounded, flat-footed lower body.  Today, many tribal gatherings work to join and unite tribes from across the continent, which results in homogenizing some of the dances to suit all.  Men's Traditional dance, however, can remain tribe specific in terms of style and dress, so finding a first hand resource like Wally is one of the best things that you can do.  For example, when the dancer wears parts of different animals on their outfit, it is to show respect for the animal and to embody the spirit of the animal as they dance.  Since most animal types are usually region specific, local customs take hold and have a large impact on the style. 

 

Since I'll be using Wally's outfit as the base for my discussion on this subject, it is important to note that, unintentionally, the discussion will be slanted towards the style of this one example.  With this style, as with any other style, spend time at Powwows looking at other outfits and take notes of what you like or don't like.  Again, NEVER copy another outfit exactly, as some symbols or items have been handed down through generations and are family specific, meaning you need permission to use them.

 

 

 

 

Outfit Overview

 

Buckskin Shirt
Bone Breastplate
Bone Sash

Knife Pouch
Hand Articles
Wing Fan
Turtle Shell Pouch
Deer Toes
Buckskin Pants
Moccasins

 

 

 

 

As I go through a very basic description of all of these outfit parts, please keep in mind a couple of things.

 

1.     It is a violation of federal law to have in your possession or wear any part of a federally protected animal species.  Also be very careful about feathers from birds of prey, like Eagles or Hawks.  The best thing that you can do if you want to use these items is to spend the money on hand-painted imitations.  They will cost a little bit of money, but they will keep you out of trouble. 

2.     Wally has chosen to make his outfit period correct for the 1800's.  There is nothing wrong with you choosing to modernize some of the outfit accessories with different materials.  Like replacing the buckskin shirt with a ribbon shirt for example. 

3.     I will also discuss some items that aren't present in Wally's outfit picture, such as beadwork, that are present in many outfits of this style. 

4.     I won't discuss ways to put any of these items together.  This has already been done; very well I might add, in many other books.  I'll give a list of recommended reading at the end of this chapter to help any beginners in putting their outfits together.

5.     It is a violation of federal law to wear American Flags on your outfit.  I know that some of you may question why I'm saying this, but every year I see well-intentioned, patriotic people who get in trouble for this.  American Flag motifs on cloth appliqué are fine, but the American Flag itself cannot be used.

Part Descriptions

Porcupine Hair Roach: (not shown in Wally's Picture)

Most Men's Northern Traditional dancers wear headdresses, referred to as a roach, on their heads. The roaches are made with porcupine hair (not quills) and deer hair intricately woven together. Imitation Eagle feathers are then worn on top of the roaches in a simple spreader. A stick with imitation eagle plumes (again, some American Indians have real eagle feathers and plumes and have the right to wear them) attached at the end is then fastened between the roach and the spreader at the top of the head. A string around the neck fastens the roach midway down the back of the neck. The roach is the only accessory common to all styles of modern Powwow dress. Colored deer hair is also a more modern adaptation for the style, although the traditional color is white, or un-dyed deer hair. It's possible to go without one for a while but if you wish to dance at a Powwow or compete at a National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) or to you will need to get one eventually.

 

Buckskin Shirt and leggings: 

I've had more requests for information on Buckskin clothing than any other style of dress presented in this book. To accommodate this interest I've consulted the most experienced person I could think of for help. John Kranitz, shown here in his Buckskin Warshirt, has an entire section in Chapter 4, "The Projects" that talks extensively about how to make buckskin Shirts.  My only real interest here is to advise you on a note of caution: Animal skin shirts carry a certain status for American Indians whereupon only the head of a family, the head of a tribe, or a veteran is allowed to wear them. I discovered in the course of this project that they were and are so revered that before going into battle, the owner of one would often bury it so that no one else could have it if the warrior did not return. If you decide to make a buckskin shirt, I recommend using it for Boy Scout ceremonies only. Don't wear it to a Powwow gathering unless an elder has given you permission to do so. Simply replace the buckskin shirt with a ribbon shirt and you'll prevent any misunderstandings and unintentional offense. These rules do not apply to skin leggings; anyone is free to wear them without concern of offending anyone.

Ribbon Shirts:

Ribbon shirts are by far more common than buckskin shirts. Trust me when I say that after a whole day of dancing, you're going to want to have something lightweight and breathable that won't make you sweat more than you already are. This gentleman's shirt is a great example of a modern adaptation to an older style. He's using modern materials and colors to accent his traditional outfit and show off his extensive beadwork. I've also included in this book a section just on ribbon shirts written by Dr. Colleen Kahn that appears in Chapter 4 "The Projects". As the designer or your outfit, you are more than welcome to use the shirt style of your choice. This picture shows that you can choose something besides the traditional calico that is so common in most ribbon shirts in this style. As with all styles, be sure to do your homework and research, such as talking to American Indians or going to Powwows. This will help to clear up any questions that you have in the design process of your outfit.

 

Bone Breastplates and Bone Sashes:

Northern Traditional dancers also wear bone breastplates, which were originally used for protection during battle or hunting. Dave Larson, who is interviewed in Chapter 5, said about bonework, "It represents your armor, it covers your heart." This has survived as an accessory on modern traditional outfits. They can be made rather cheaply with plastic imitations (which can be soaked in tea to make them look old) or made with real bones which are much more expensive. Bone sashes have also had some controversy at the national level, since some people believe that they can be traced to only one family clan in the Nebraska area, and therefore, only people from that area of Nebraska should wear them. I asked several local Indian friends about this and was told that this was "Hogwash".  If you'll notice, Wally has one on his outfit and saw nothing wrong with others wearing them. This is a great example of asking people in the community their opinion about an outfit choice.

 

Wally's Knife and Sheath:

I would like to bring two points up regarding Wally's knife. First, it's a beautiful family heirloom that can be traced back to the 1700's.  Second, the ONLY people allowed to wear weapons of any kind into the powwow ring are Military Veterans.  No matter what sentimental attachment you may have to any knife or club, if you've never served in the Armed Forces then you DON'T have the right to wear any weapons on your outfit into the powwow arena.

 

 

Hand articles and Wing Fans:

In the traditional style, some dancers carry wing fans, shields, or dance sticks decorated with plumes and horsehair. Wing fans have a functional use as well as being decorative in all styles of dress because they are used for cooling off after long periods of dancing. I myself have made one for every outfit I've got. The wings of most birds are acceptable for this with the most common among dancers being goose wings. In this picture you'll notice that Wally has more than one hand article. Since traditional dancers usually carry more than one object in each hand, there are many things that can be used to dance with. By far the most common item is a dance stick. They can be decorated with beadwork, fur wrapped, painted or simply left plain. Some staffs may also have sage or sweet grass braided along the topside. In this picture, Wally shows off his hawk wing fan and hawk dance stick. Because he is an American Indian, he is allowed to use hawk feathers whereas most of us can't because Eagles and hawks are federally protected species. American Indians have Federal permission to use parts of animals that are protected because of their prominence within the culture. There is a process that American Indians have to go through for them to receive this permission and the animal parts. Absolutely no one should carry an animal part that comes from a protected species without this permission.

 

Beadwork:

One of the most beautiful items that you can add to any outfit is beadwork, and in the traditional style the golden rule seems to be the more beadwork the better. Beadwork is alluring to most people, Indian and non-Indian, as they can appreciate the massive amount of work involved in it's creation. This is true especially when there are massive amounts of beadwork. Beads are usually the last item to be added to any outfit, as it is the most time consuming. This gentleman's outfit, with a fully beaded vest and a matching beaded apron must have taken at least a year to make. I strongly recommend AGAINST taking the easy road by buying ready-made Asian machined beadwork even though everybody in Scouting seems to have it. You're not fooling anybody when you purchase cheap-machined beadwork, as it's so common that most people know it on sight. Wally himself has some very harsh words about machined beadwork that you can read in chapter 5, "The interviews". What this means that the best thing that you can do for your outfit is to sit down and bead your own patterns. Experiment for a while with scratch paper and different colors until you find a pattern that you like. Some additional color accents are acceptable here and can add more definition to your outfit, but be careful and use them sparingly so as not to take away from the existing color choices in your outfit. An outfit with too many colors can look too busy and may take away from the desired effect.

 

 

Traditional Feather Bustle: (not shown in Wally's Picture)

Traditional Feather Bustles are another item, like ribbon shirts, which have had a modern makeover.  Both of the bustles shown above use modern materials in their construction that enable them to have greater size and durability than the smaller, more traditional dance bustle.  Because of its enhanced appearance, this style of "U" shape traditional bustle is now the most common at powwows. Natural colored feathers and accessories are preferred to the brighter colors that you'd see in the fancy dance bustles.  You can also have more than one row of feathers in your bustle. For example, the bustle on the left has a single row of feathers while the bustle on the right has three rows. Both have the bottom shafts of each feather decorated so that when all feathers are assembled together, it will appear to form a butterfly. Traditional bustles, like fancy dance bustles, are made to break down for easy transportation and storage. The back of the bustle can also have decorative "trailers" which will hang down to the dancers ankles from the back of the bustle. If you look in the left picture, they are the red cloth strips visible near the dancers ankles

 

Bells:

The first "bells" to be worn on an outfit were deer toes that were worn around the dancers ankles, which are shown here in this picture from Wally's outfit. Most traditional dancers today, however, prefer to use sheep bells. Bells are very important, as they tell you if you are staying in rhythm with other dancers and with the drum.  It is also common for traditional dancers to choose to wear fur around their ankles just below the bells.

 


 

 

Men's Grass Dancer at the pow-wow Chapter 3-2: Grass Dance

 

The Grass Dance, like the Traditional Dance, is an ancient dance to survive into modern times and was first done in the tall prairie grasses of North Dakota. Some say the swaying movement of the dancers is a gentle expression of prairie grass on a wind-swept day. The old style grass dancers use a lot of shoulder, arm, and head movements and in the "old style" footwork it appears that they are stumbling. The Grass Dance style is easy to recognize by the striking outfits, which are covered from shoulder to ankle with long, thick, bright, multi-colored fringes made of yarn or ribbon. The dancers do not wear feather bustles, like the traditional or fancy dancers.  The shear amount of fringe or ribbon in this style is necessary to enhance the graceful movement of the Grass Dancers' bodies as they sway in an imagined breeze, keeping rhythm with the drums. My research on the Internet uncovered some Indian people think this dance also symbolizes the warriors' celebration of victory over an enemy where the braded grass represents the scalps of fallen foes. This is the opinion of a very small minority as most Indians that I spoke with all referred to the yarn or fringe representing long prairie grass. I might add that this style of Dance had a very practical purpose as well.  If you ever go to the Dakota's you'll notice that the prairie grass is very tall. Before any powwows could be started the grass needed to be flattened. The Grass Dancers were the ones to do this by stomping on the tall grass and placing some of it on their belts as they danced.

 

The Legend behind the Grass Dance

Every tribe has their own origin legends for different dance styles.  The best-known origin legend of the Grass Dance comes from the Northern Plains area. A young man was born without the full use of his legs and longed to run, dance, and play with the other children. His parents consulted a Medicine Man and asked if he could help their son in some way. The Medicine Man advised the boy to fast and seek a vision on the prairie. The young man left the village and did as he was instructed. As he sat in the hot summer sun on the prairie fasting and praying, the long swaying prairie grass mesmerized him. Soon he saw himself dancing in a similar manner as the movement of the prairie grass. He at once went back to the village and asked the Medicine Man to interpret his vision. The Elder then asked the boy's mother to help him make an outfit for the boy to dance in that utilized the long prairie grass. He showed his father how the boy would dance and a song was made for him. A celebration was held and he showed the entire village his style of dance.  It was during this celebration that his legs were healed. This style of dancing was eventually called the Grass Dance.

 

 



 

 

Outfit Overview

 

                                                          

 

Front View 
 
Back View

Roach Spreader

Roach

Yoke

Cuffs and Armbands

Hand Articles

Apron

Pants

Bells

Moccasins


 

For the remainder of this chapter I'll give a brief description of each of these items as they relate to the grass dance outfit.  Keep in mind two things as you read this chapter.

 

1)    As stated earlier, this is meant to be a basic overview of the outfit itself, not how to put one together. I've done this to save space and because I realized that there are already books on the market that show how to put one together. You'll find at the end of this chapter a listing of resources for you that will help.

2)    Outfit styles have trends that change from year to year. I can think of no greater example of this than the two pictures above. The one on the left shows an outfit design that has very flashy colors, while the outfit on the right has very traditional approach to his color choices. It's impossible to write a packet that documents all trends within this style, so I've decided upon an approach that will show the basics, and then let the reader take it from there.

 


Part Descriptions

 

Porcupine Hair Roach:

The roach is the only accessory common to all styles of modern Powwow dress. It's possible to go without one for a while but if you wish to dance at a powwow or compete at a National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) you are going to need to get one eventually. They can be made from horsehair (inexpensive but I might add, the ugliest) or, like most, from porcupine hair. The shorter outside row of hair is from deer tail hair, which can be dyed. In the picture above you'll notice that all but one of the porcupine hair roaches has dyed deer hair. Most people decide to buy their roaches, but it is possible to make one for a third of the cost. Grass dance roaches are almost always worn as flat as possible with one to two imitation eagle feathers in the spreader. In recent years the imitation feathers have been replaced with springs that have feather fluffs at the ends, which are visible on the 2nd grass dancer from the right.

 

Yoke and Apron:

Yoke: This is a one-piece strip of cloth with a hole in the middle for the dancers head.

Apron (s): This looks somewhat like the yoke cut in half. It matches the yoke in design but is worn around the waist. There are two, one each for the front and back.        

Both the front and back of the yoke and apron are decorated in the same way and can be adorned with yarn, ribbons, or scarves. I recommend finding a simplistic Indian themed design for use in the middle of the yoke and apron. This can be a sewn on as a cloth pattern (easiest), a sequined pattern, or a beaded pattern (hardest). Beadwork does exist in this style, although it's not as common as it is with the other styles.

Chokers, Cuffs, Belts, and Suspenders:

I know this may seem like many items to bring up at once but I do it for a reason. All of these items need to somehow consist of the same pattern or theme. These are usually the last items to be added, as they can be the most time consuming.  This topic is also a great example of how the style has evolved from different trends over time. When I was younger, beadwork was the preferred design choice in this area.  However in recent years both sequin work and cloth appliqué have become the style of choice.  In this example the gentleman has used the latter with hardly any beadwork at all (note the cloth suspenders). Some additional color accents are fine here as it can add more definition to your outfit, just be careful to use them sparingly so as not to take away from the existing color choices you already have. An outfit with to many colors can look to busy and may take away from the desired effect.

 

Hand Articles:

Hand articles accent your outfit and can add to the appearance of motion. They can be very simple designs or very complex depending on how much time and effort you wish to put into them. Here are some examples.

Again, your color choices should accent the colors chosen for your outfit.

 

Pants:

There is one logistical point to make note of here when you design your outfit. All Grass dance outfits have a bundle of yarn wrapped around the leg just below the knee. Many people have decided to sew this piece permanently onto their pants.  Many others, however, have a separate piece that attaches to their leg for this. It really doesn't matter which way you decide as long as your pant color and yarn colors fits in to the color scheme of your outfit.

 

Bells:

Your bells in this style are wrapped around your ankle and can be a choice of sheep bells or cowbells. Just make sure that you choose all of the same kind and size for the entire set.

 

Moccasins:

We have many more options available to us now for footwear than we did just five years ago. Today it's possible to use sneakers or aqua socks in place of Moccasins. I do recommend that you try a pair of Moccasins before totally giving up on them. Also, decorating you moccasins, or whatever you choose to wear, will add to the overall effect for your outfit.

 


Chapter 3-3:  Fancy Dance

 

Here is a picture of the 1996 National Order of the Arrow Conference Fancy Dance Outfit Champions. The Middle Fancy Dancer in the dark outfit is Tonkawampus's own Doug Hiltz.

 

 

 

Men's Fancy Dance:

This dance style is the most contemporary of the outfit styles discussed in this book and it is often the highlight of some dance competitions. The colorful visual elements of the outfit coupled with quick spinning footwork and jumps make this style a favorite of competitors and viewers alike.  The dance style is of two types: a basic simple step while dancing around the drum and a "contest" step with fast and intricate footwork combined with a spinning up and down movement of the body. In this dance in particular, a friendly competition usually develops between the singers and the dancers because stopping with the end beat can mean winning or losing points. This happens when the singers, in order to test the skill of the dancers, perform "trick songs," with unexpected last beats.

 

Men's Fancy Dance Origins:

The "Fancy Dance" originated as Fancy War Dance by the Hethuska society in Oklahoma by an individual named Gus McDonald, who was also the first World Champion Fancy War Dancer. The McDonald family, specifically Juel Farmer McDonald, the Ponca Tribal matriarch, still presents the trophy to the fancy war dance champion each year because of this family honor.  By the middle of the 20th century, tribes gathering together began to see innovations in fancy dances that become more and more elaborate. Beadwork became lavish and the bustles became bigger. Eventually, a bustle at the back of the waist was joined by a second, smaller bustle at the back of the neck and the footwork became more elaborate and athletic. The current fancy dance outfit, as such, has no single tribal identity.


 

Outfit Overview

 

 

  

Front View
 
Back View

Roach Spreader

Roach

Top Bustle

Side Arm Bustle

Yoke

Beadwork

Bottom Bustle

Apron

Whip Sticks

Angora Leggings

Moccasins

 

 

The Fancy Dance outfit has so many pieces to it that not everything can be shown simply from the pictures.  There are many pieces under other pieces so showing them all may seem troublesome.  Since the overall effect of the outfit is divided into layers I'll try the best that I can to describe the parts that are visible as well as the parts that you don't see right away.

 

This chapter is also meant to be a basic overview the outfit itself, not how to put one together.  I've done this to save space, and because I realized that there are already other well written books on the market that show how to put one together.  Please refer to the end of this chapter for a listing of resources that will help.

 

There is also no trendier outfit style than Fancy Dance.  Styles change so much, from season to season that the best I can do is show you the basics, and let you take your own designs from there.

 

There is also a lot of money required to start an outfit of this nature.  If you're financially challenged, then tackle this outfit in little pieces, over many months as funds become available. 


 

Part Descriptions

 

Porcupine Hair Roach:

Like the traditional and grass dancers, fancy dancers wear headdresses, referred to as a roach, on their heads. The roaches are made with porcupine and deer tail hair intricately woven together. In this picture, the fancy dancer has customized the hair colors on the outside deer tail hair of his roach to match the colors in his outfit.  This gives his outfit more "flash" or a better overall appearance to his outfit, which will hopefully attract the attention of judges.  Fancy dance roaches are usually worn more vertical than the other styles and have one to two imitation eagle feathers in the spreader.  The fancy dancers also use a "rocker" on their roach spreader to make the eagle feathers bounce back and forth in rhythm with the drum. This rocker has a string that goes threw the roach on the top of the head that will tie under the dancers chin.  A string lower on the roach fastens it midway down the back of the neck.

 

Top and Bottom Bustles:

Your bustle set is the single most important item on your fancy dance outfit. The colors that you chose here and how you organize them can influence how the rest of your outfit is set up. Fancy dance, more than the other styles, is dependent upon very bright or neon colors for flash. I recommend using one primary color and two or three secondary colors that can be used throughout your outfit. Be careful how you use them as too many will give others looking at your outfit a headache. I'd also advise a neutral color, like black or white mixed in to provide a break for the eye.  To help with the appearance of movement, horsehair or ribbons are attached to the bustles as well in large amounts. The idea is to create as much movement as possible so as to attract the attention of everyone, especially contest judges. Fancy dance bustles are also made to break down for easy transportation and storage.

 

 

 

Side Arm Bustles:

Every fancy dancer has a small bustle on each arm made from the primary colors in his bustle set. They have a centerpiece (mirror, beaded rosette, CD) that matches the centerpiece from their big bustle cousins and they often have ribbons hanging from it.  They are easy to make as the feathers or hackles are simply sewn onto a heavy round piece of leather. A fastener (Velcro, snaps, leather lace, etc.) is then attached for tying onto your arm.

 

 

 

 

Yoke or Ribbon shirts:

There are two major styles of shirts worn in fancy dance.

 

1) Yoke: It is similar in design to the yokes used in grass dance outfits, but with some subtle variations.

      Since there is no yarn, fringe or ribbons are substituted instead.

      They tend to be a little longer than the grass dance version to make up for the 12" to 14" of yarn that covers the dancers body. The disadvantage to this is that if you have wide or ornately beaded suspenders, they won't be easily seen because the yoke will cover them up.

      Only the front is decorated.  This is because your top and bottom bustles will cover up any designs on the back.   Designs here are also more ornate than grass dance, remember that the more flash, the better with this style.

 

2) Ribbon Shirt: This is the style that was used by Doug Hiltz in the first photograph of this section because it allows him to show off all of his beautiful beadwork. Dr Colleen Kahn has 12 pages dedicated to the construction of ribbon shirts in Chapter 4-2, so there's little that I can add to the discussion here other than to make it match your color scheme.

 

APRON

How you design your apron depends greatly on your shirt choice. You have three options.

  1. If you chose a yoke: design a matching pattern for your front apron, similar to what you see in the previous photograph on p.38 that shows two different yoke and apron styles.
  2. If you chose a ribbon shirt, Option 1: apply the same basic ribbon pattern to your apron.
  3. If you chose a ribbon shirt, Option 2: design an independent design for your apron. Doug Hiltz's apron at the top of p.35 is a perfect example of this. He's got a giant rosette on his apron that accents the beadwork on the rest of his outfit.

 

BEADWORK:

I'm going to try and be as concise here as I can because I could write an entire chapter on this subject.  One of the most important points to remember with large beadwork sets is that all items need to somehow consist of the same pattern or color scheme.  Both sets of beadwork patterns shown above don't have the exact same pattern on every piece, but they do have the same color scheme. They are usually the last items to be added to any outfit, as they are the most time consuming. Beadwork has an allure to it that attracts the attention of anyone who's ever done it.  How the fancy dance champions find time to bead a new pattern every season I have no idea, but I suspect that is how they always get the title of "Champion". It is possible to substitute sequin work or cloth appliqué in this area, but use it sparingly as it can have a negative effect to your overall look. I also heavily recommend AGAINST buying ready-made Asian machined beadwork as everybody in Scouting has it. Your not fooling anybody when you purchase that stuff as it's so common that most people know it on sight. This means that the best thing that you can do for your outfit is to put forth the time and effort to bead your own patterns. Experiment for a while with scratch paper and different colors until you find a pattern that you like. Some additional color accents are ok here as it can add more definition to your outfit, just be careful to use them sparingly so as not to make your outfit look to busy as this can take away from your desired effect.

 

 

Hand Articles:

Hand articles accent your outfit and can add to the appearance of motion. The hand article of choice for Fancy Dancers has always been whip sticks.  They are simply two hand held sticks that have about a foot of sting attached to them and a bundle of feathers or hackles at the end.   They can be very simple designs or very complex depending on how much time and effort you wish to put into them. Again, your color choices should accent the colors chosen for your outfit.  I myself also carry a wing fan on my Fancy outfit, as it's a simple way to help cool off. 

 

Angora Leggings:

Angora leggings get their name from the Angora mountain goat. It is a white piece of fur that is wrapped around the bottom of the fancy dancer's legs. It takes about a 1/2; a hide to get a pair of leggings. There are some cheep alternatives that are used such as imitation fur and yarn. Be aware, however, that they lack the feel and look of the original.

 

 

Bells:

There is a lot more flexibility available to the fancy dancer with his bells than to other forms of dress. When I was competing the trend was to use a variety of sheep bells and cowbells in different sizes so as to customize your sound. Today I see most people have all the same size and kind for their entire set. I suspect this is because it is easier to get a dozen of all the same size and kind than to get different combinations. What ever you chose, make sure that your bells are securely fastened. Because of the intensity of this style of dance, fancy dancers lose their bells more than any of the other dancers. In competition this means automatic disqualification. Bells are usually placed above the Angora leggings and some dancers have taken the step of simply attaching their bells to their Angora's. You also have the option to decorate your bells with ribbons or scarves to add movement to your ankle and knee area.


 

Recommended Books and Videos

For Traditional Dancers:

"The Northern Traditional Dancer"

By C. Scott Evans. This book is by far the most complete how-to book on Northern Traditional outfits I've ever found.  It documents many different trends and has a complete section on how to construct all crafts.  48 pages.

 

 

 

 


 


For Fancy Dancers:

"The Modern Fancy Dancer"

By C. Scott Evans and J. Rex Reddick.  This book, like the one above, is also a very good book on the basics of Fancy Dance outfits.  It shows all items that comprise an outfit, and most importantly, how to put one together.  64 pages.

 

 

 


 


For Grass Dancers:

"Native American Men's and Women's Dance Styles:Vol 1 & 2"

This 2 part videotape series has information on 19 different modern Powwow dance styles.  It is one of the best I have so far been able to find that discusses the topic of Men's Grass Dance.  It also is a wonderful presentation on the variety of modern powwow dance styles.

Both videotapes are 60 minutes long.

 

 

 


 

For Dancing Basics:

"How to Dance Native American Style: Beginning Steps"

This 30-minute videotape is an excellent resource to use for teaching people who are beginners at powwow dancing.   It shows how to dance "on the song", the most basic concept of modern powwow dancing that is missed by most beginners.  Champion men and women dancers demonstrate all steps.

 

Introduction••Table of Contents••Tell me what you think!••Chapter 1 History••Chapter 2 Etiquette••Chapter 2 Dances••Chapter 2 Songs••Chapter 3 Outfits••Chapter 4-1 Projects••Chapter 4-2 Ribbon Shirts••Chapter 4-3 Tipi Basics••Chapter 5 Interviews••Chapter 5 Dave Larson••Chapter 5 Wally Ripplinger••Chapter 5 Oyate Ota••Chapter 5 Valerie Larson••Appendices