The eagle is considered a sacred animal to Native Americans; because the eagle can soar so high, it is believed that it can communicate directly with the Creator. Eagle feathers are an important part of the regalia for both men and women.
The eagle is represented by a dancer who looks and moves like a proud, soaring bird in the Eagle Dance. You will also see the eagle appear in the Hoop Dance, which shows other elements from the natural world as the dancer uses a different number of hoops to create a butterfly, a tree, the sun, and the moon.
Men's Fancy Dance
The Fancy Dance is usually performed by young men, and was originated in the 1950s to attract Powwow visitors. The Fancy Dance is also known as the Bustle Dance, and is said to have come from Oklahoma. This dance is very flashy and colorful, and has the fastest movement of any other dance; and, therefore, requires that the dancer has stamina, strength, and coordination.
What distinguishes the Fancy Dance is the outfit worn by the dancer—a twin bustle decorated with colorful fringe that flows freely while performing the ruffle with fast foot movements. The colorful fringe is said to represent the Rainbow Spirit. The headdress broach that the dancer wears has two feathers that are moving at all times while dancing; and at times, the dancer’s face is not seen because of the flowing fringe. Dancers also carry decorated coup sticks.
The Grass Dance is said to have originated with the Omaha Tribe. Stories told of the dance tell us that this dance is known as ceremonial. In the South, tribes believe it was connected to a warrior society and that scalps were attached to the dancers’ clothing to celebrate a victorious battle.
To the northern tribes, the Grass Dance is said to be a blessing ceremony for new ground. The dancers trampled the ground to prepare for a village, and grass was tied to the dancer. The fringe attached to the dancer’s regalia sways with the movement as if to inspire the natural movement of tall prairie grass.
This dance represents the balance of life, thus the dancer performs the same movement on either the right or left. The regalia worn by the dancer are covered with yarn and ribbons that sway, and he wears lots of color.
The hoop is a symbol of “the never-ending circle of life;” it has no beginning and no end. The Hoop Dance is used in traditional healing ceremonies in many tribes across North America. The significance of the hoop only enhances its embodiment of healing ceremonies. For many years, the Hoop Dance has evolved to incorporate new and creative movements and intricate footwork. The Hoop Dance made its modern transition when Tony White Cloud, Jemez Pueblo, played a pivotal role in the evolution of the dance, and began using multiple hoops in a stylized version as “founder of the modern Hoop Dance.”
Each dancer may have his or her own unique interpretation of the intertribal Hoop Dance. The dancer can present the dance using as few as four hoops to as many as 50 hoops. The hoops are manipulated to make many different designs such as animals, butterflies, and globes. The dancers are judged on five skills: precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativeness, and speed.