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North America: North American Plains

Dance of the North American Plains Indians

Performances in
World Arts West Programs
Hoop Dance and Grass Dance
Four Winds

Every Native song, dance and gesture is an expression of Native American heritage, and illustrates a part of Native American life rooted in an ancient past. Through the singing, dancing, drumming, and colorful regalia, ancient stories and rituals are enacted. Although many of the dances are social, they are also steeped in spiritual significance.

The most widely known dances include the Hoop Dance, Fancy War Dance, Spear and Shield Dance, Grass Dance, and the sacred Eagle Dance. These dances are commonly found at inter- tribal gatherings, called powwows, which take place regularly throughout the United States.

In People Like Me 2006, Eddie Madril of Four Winds presents the Grass Dance and the Hoop Dance. Before any war party or ceremony, the Grass dancers were always the first to go out to flatten the tall prairie grass. The movements the dancers used with their feet were stomping and sweeping motions done in rhythm with the drum's beat. Songs for the Grass dance tell stories of battles or a warriors experiences. The Grass is one of the oldest dances in Powwows today.

The Hoop Dance is based a creation myth, a legend of a dying man who wanted to leave something important behind on earth. The Creator gave him a single hoop made of wood and told him that for each living thing he could create, one more hoop would be added. As he added hoops, the man become stronger and created the forms of other living things. In its earliest form, the Hoop Dance is believed to have been part of a healing ceremony designed to restore balance and harmony in the world. Contemporary hoop dancers use as many as 40 reeds or wooden hoops to create many shapes, including butterflies, turtles, eagles, flowers, and snakes. They represent living things and show how all living things grow, change and are interconnected.


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