The Red Earth Annual Celebration held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has become
a way of recalling the ancestral traditions, as well as developing a sense of pride in the Native
American culture to new generations. Each dance is rich in symbolism. Attending a pow wow
with a broader understanding of each of the contest dances most certainly will make the
experience more powerful.
Fancy War Dance
Following the rhythm of the drum with the steps, the motion of the head
and the flow of body as the dancer expresses his own emotions, is what the judges look for
in this dance of valor. Since the styles are individual, the expression of the emotion of the
music and the change of pace from the slower northern style to the faster southern beat
are also important. As in all Native American dancing, finishing in the exact time with the
song is significant in the judging.
The motion of the bodies should cause the flowing regalia to move in a way reminiscent of the
long, blowing grass of the prairie. It should be danced in perfect time to the music, responding
as the grass does to motion of the wind. This dance is an expression of the harmony of the
Men's Northern Traditional Dance
Most interesting is watching the story line develop as each dancer challenges the enemy. Even
with the slow tempo, the rhythm must be in harmony with the drum. One may enjoy trying to
interpret each motion and compare the different ways dancers imitate the eagle or the porcupine.
Men's Southern Straight Dance
The dancers are judged on their ability to stay in step with the beat and to look very convincing in their
search. Pay special attention to the "story line," which reveals itself in the actions of the dancers. Look
for differences in regalia which may denote tribal differences.
Ladies' Southern Cloth Dance
The Ladies' Cloth Dance is one of dignity, and that attitude should be maintained throughout. Judging
includes the ability of the dancer to stay in time with the drum, to create a sway of the shawl and
to stop in time with the drum.
Ladies' Traditional Buckskin Dance
Discipline is essential to the slow, graceful movements of this dance. Dancing in perfect harmony with the
drum, while never breaking the sedate spirit is the essence. The dips and sways are executed with no break
Since each participant in the Fancy Shawl dance has her own individual style, how well the steps and motions
express and harmonize with the drum is the essence. Being in time with the beat is important, as is the ability to end
the dance precisely.
Dance steps and body movement which are not in time to the music are easily detected because of the
music of the dress itself. Pride and grace is demanded in the attitude of the dance, and a certain reverence
should be exhibited.
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