Dance In Native American Culture
Here at Bella Ballroom, we thought it would be a good time to talk about Native Americans and how dance is used in their culture.
We did some research on different tribes like Cherokee, Apache, Cheyenne, Iroquois, Crow People, and Lakota People. We wanted to learn the similarities between them and the various reasons why they involve dancing into their daily life and ceremonies.
They apply dancing to many circumstances like:
- the celebration of life transitions
- war and hunting
- healing of the sick
- communicating with the spirit world
- agricultural dance
- celebrating the gift of human life
- celebrating death
- medicine rites
- during crises of life
How incredible that they included dancing for these purposes and many others!
Prayer in Dancing
They take dancing seriously because it becomes their way of communicating their wishes, desires, and predictions to a higher power in a very clear manner. Through dancing they can express the relationship between humans and deities. They dress up for the occasion and create groups with different steps and choreography.
Beginning of a Hunt
Before a hunt they dress up as the animal that they want to pursue, imitate the animal, gather in a large circle, chant, and play drums. With the leader of the tribe organizing the hunt, they visualize the way they hope the hunt will go. Animal dances vary according to the local fauna. Depending on the animal, they dance in a specific manner and follow a precise ritual for the event.
Depending on the season and the plants that they want to grow, they use dance to initiate the process. They start by calling upon rain to begin the agricultural season. This ritual can go on for days and admits men, women, and children. Men habitually represent supernatural beings and rain-bringing deities. Whereas women symbolize fertility. During agricultural ceremonies, they are featured performers. Women promote and represent plant fertility with their symbolic dancing so their role is important.
This performance includes wearing masks, playing different instruments, singing, and creating all type of noise. They create the ideal atmosphere with these rituals that have been passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years. They communicate to the different Gods and call upon specific needs. Dancing compliments their prayers.
Another beautiful ceremony they enhance with dancing is celebrating death. Native Americans have a deeper understanding that life and death are together; one cannot exist without the other. They know that for life to exist, death needs to be present too. They take time to learn about death and how to pass so that when the moment comes, they are willing and ready to make the next step. Knowledge, respect, and understanding for death is necessary to make that transition. This makes it as peaceful and special as possible. Death for the Native Americans is a beautiful finish line to the human experience that is celebrated, not feared. Native Americans have their specific rituals according to the tribe, but the intention remains the same: to celebrate the soul that has left the human body and to guide it through prayers, chanting, musical instruments, and dancing.
We think we can learn from Native Americans that dance can be incorporated into our lives for any reason. Dancing is not created just to compete but to enhance and experience the moment in a deeper way regardless of the emotional state we are in.