Dances had been a part of every country’s culture. Often times, dances are being held to mark a significant event or occasion and these are more likely to be inclined in religious and social functions. Like any other remarkable indigenous dances, powwow dances are held to gather American Indians signalling the end of a season and meeting the beginning of a new one (Our History). In this event, Native Americans congregate to give thanks for the good happenings of the past season and ask for the persistence of such prosperity for the coming season. Such dances are entertaining to be seen but in the viewpoint of the dancers and the elders, it holds a sacred meaning.
The Powwow is a collection of various dances which is basically composed of several dances including men's traditional dance, men’s fancy dance, men’s grass dance, women’s traditional dance, women’s fancy shawl dance, tiny tots dance and the women’s jingle dress dance (Powwow dances). Each and every dance is distinct from one another and depicts different stories and meanings. Movements or steps in the mentioned dances also varies and are performed by dancers within different age range (one of the dances is performed by children aged six and below).
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One of the notable powwow dances is the women’s jingle dance. This dance tells a legend of a medical man’s ill granddaughter who, with the help of a beautiful spirit, dress in a jingle dress was cured (Pearson 72). Women’s jingle dress was regarded as a prayer dress because of the legend told and carried throughout time. Upon performing and honoring this dance, along with the other powwow dances, the Native Americans show their outmost respect to their ancestors, elders, families, veterans, friends and events in Native American history.
Origin, Description and Significance of Women’s Jingle Dress
The Women’s Jingle dress dance was said to have been originated in Northern Minnesota. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, the foundation of women’s jingle dress was derived from a legend regarding a medicine man’s ill granddaughter. It was told in the legend that the idea and creation of the dress was taught to the medicine man by a beautiful spirit through his dream. Upon creating the dress, the spirit advises the man to put it on his granddaughter to cure her. The song to be used as well as the movements of the dance was also taught by the spirit. The medicine man, having great faith on what the spirit told him, made the dress and put it on his granddaughter (Person 72). Together with other companions, they gathered in the dance hall and there they witnessed the miracle brought by the jingle dress. The granddaughter was cured and danced in gladness.
The steps of the dance mostly emphasize active hand and feet movements. Jingle dancers uses both legs equally thus dividing the weight of the dancer’s body to the heel of one foot and to the toe of the other (Person 71). As described in the Women’s Jingle dress article, ‘the dress is made of a cloth, velvet or leather base adorned with jingles made out of a shiny metal.’ The structure of the dress used in the jingle dance was made in such a way that the jingles’ sound would be incorporated in the dance thus making the performers jingle or dance in gladness (Women’s Jingle Dress). The movements as well as the jingles present in the dress of the performers make this indigenous dance to be a unique and remarkable one. Furthermore, the steps are made in synchrony with the beat of the drum suggesting that the dancers must keep track with the beat of the said instrument and stop with both feet on the ground on the final beat. The ability of the performer to combine the traditional aspects with her overall individuality and attitude aids in the dance’ proper execution as well as the clear portrayal of the dance’ message.
Dances, like any other objects and places, have their histories. The occurrence of the different traditional dances on the different parts of the globe represents a significant event and conveys a meaningful story. Though some of the indigenous dances may have died and are being replace by modern ones, still we can not disregard the fact that it has been a significant part of our culture. Sometimes, ideas or foundation of the modern dances at present times have been derived from these indigenous dances.
The powwow dances (the Women’s jingle dress specifically) had played a vital role in molding the culture of American Indians. The opportunity it provides for the people to gather together and rekindle the origin of their rich culture is indeed admirable. Furthermore, conducting this traditional gathering also open the opportunity to promote brotherhood and uphold the idea of oneness among the American Indians. Powwow dances had been handed through out the ages and people in the Native America continuously perform their task in promoting and preserving these dances. Though not anyone of them may have live since the dance begins, a connection between the past and the present performance is vividly seen for the dance steps being executed at present were the once executed by their ancestors decades ago.
Preservation of the traditional dances is highly commendable. People who show their outmost support in the preservation of these dances also shows their high respect to their culture. Stories behind these dances may sound strange in the view point of most people nowadays. Some may tend to criticize and laugh at those stories but individuals must keep in mind that without these stories, presence of these unique dances that we perform and honor would not be likely to occur.
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