Arena and Staff*
Drum and Song*
Northern Traditional - Click to enlarge
The first time a person sees a Traditional Dancer, he or she usually asks, "How can this man, with super glue, colored tape and bright outfits, be called traditional?"
Today, traditional means not strictly adhering to the past, but instead it refers to a style that developed from the original dance many years ago. Around the late 1800's, only a few dignified warriors were entitled to wear the articles of the traditional dancer, the roach and the bustle. As the dance progressed from tribe to tribe and went northward, tradition changed and more dancers began to put on a bustle and roach. The Lakota tribe is usually credited for the birth of this dance as a true style everyone participates in. The Lakota style, or Northern Traditional, still exists and is popular at dances in the South as well. (It is overwhelmingly popular in the North.)
Contemporary Traditional - Click to Enlarge
The Traditional Dancer in the South today does not look very much like the original dancers of long ago . Many tribal traditions, such as the Mandan's "nest" head dress, have influenced many dancers until many tribal outfits have blended together into a general style with less tribal affliation. Because of this varied blending, it is hard to give an overall view of what "traditional" is supposed to look like. In the South however, dancers do use more feathers and animal parts in their regalia. The Southern style is usually called "Contemporary Traditional," and is more freestyle in dance than Northern Traditional.
The Traditional Dancer has a few dances that are uniquely his and his alone. One of these is the crow hop, where the dancer will "hop" to the beat of the drum.
The other traditional specialty dance is the sneak-up, where the dancer may imitate a warrior in the field or an animal looking for prey. It begins with the drum rolling, and all of the dancers low to the ground. "Gunshots" will be heard on the drum which cause the dancers to be wary. The drum then picks up a normal beat, and the dancers rise and dance.
As mentioned before, the regalia of a Traditional Dancer is almost impossible to define. The following will be a very general description and is by no means true for everyone.
Almost all have some sort of headress: a roach, Mandan, fox hide, etc. A choker, scarf with slide, or beaded tie tab will cover the neck, and a ribbon shirt is usually worn. A breastplate is almost essential, as well as a bandolier or two. The bustle worn on the lower back is only thing that is guaranteed, but they may look very different as well. Aprons with many kinds of decorations are worn, and side tabs are frequently seen. Most contemporaries will wear leather leggings with bells or clackers around their knees, while Northern Traditionals do not wear leggings but instead wear leg fringes at the knee with their bells and a small piece of Angora hide at their ankles.
All dancers wear moccasins. Traditionals will also have beaded arm bands and cuffs with fringe hanging off, and will dance with a flat fan or more commonly a large wing fan. In addition, most will carry a dance staff of some kind with a few feathers attached to it.
Click to enlarge
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