War Dance

Alex Lutz

During the 1920s and 1930s, the United States outlawed Native American religious dances. Therefore, tribes created new dances that they could preform in public. The war dance (more commonly known as the fancy dance, a combination of various tribes war dances) was created by to Ponca boys in 1928.

Very colorful clothing in worn while performing this dance. Bells and feathers are an important part of the costume. The performers wear:

  • Long-johns with bells attached to the knees and waist
  • Two small arm bustles with white fluff
  • Two bustles white white down
  • Beadwork harnesses and feathers
  • Roach (tall and usually with fluff)

The dance consists of fast paced movements. The dancer must move to the beat of the music, and when the drum the beats stops they must strike a pose. Many tribes practiced this dance before an attack to observe certain religious rights to ensure success. Members of the tribe took part in the war dance while contemplating their emotions to get ready for battle.

A drum is the primary instrument used during this dance. The drummer usually follows a medium beat picking up pace as the song continues. A ruffle and crow hop are also used.

The Fancy Dance is a combination of the different tribes war dances. Throughout the U.S. today there are competitions for this dance. This dance is now performed in remembrance of their ancestors and the battles they faced.

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