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My Experience as a Head Dancer

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  • My Experience as a Head Dancer

    Posted by siouxgirl200

    This was my first time as Head Dancer at any Pow-wow and I have been traveling the Pow-wow circuit for about nine years. I have my favorites that I attend every year and know that being a Head Dancer is a tremendous responsibility. I was asked to be the Head Dancer by the Pow-wow Director several months in advance. I accepted and began to work on making any repairs on my Jingle Dress outfit that were needed. If I was going to be the Head Dancer I certainly wanted to make sure that my outfit was looking its best.

    The Pow-wow was held in Rochester, MN, and although it was a small one, it was still significant to the Native American Community. This was our time to get together and share our culture and songs with others in the area. There were a lot of spectators and maybe about 30 dancers. (I told you it was small). I was very happy to be there and be a part of it. I have attended this Pow-wow faithfully since we moved to Minnesota in 2000.

    My Tribal Heritage has always been a big part of my life. I grew up on the Spirit Lake Sioux Indian Reservation and am Sioux and Navajo. I enjoy dancing and make my own outfits as well as my children’s outfits. I taught my children to dance at a young age because I want them to know their culture. So much Native heritage as been stolen from our people and it is our responsibility as parents to set an example and teach our children the right way. We need to preserve our culture.

    The Grand Entry started at 1:00 sharp Indian time (of course) and the Color Guard brought in the flags and I danced behind them on the right side of the Head Male Dancer. We took our tobacco in one hand and danced around the arena. Royalty danced behind us and we continued until all the dancers were in and the song was over. It is the Head Dancer’s responsibility to keep all the dancers moving. When there is a pause the dancers look to the Head Dancer if they are in question about whether they are to dance. During the Flag Song we stayed in one spot and danced in place. This is how I have seen it done since I was a child.

    After the Grand Entry the Emcee did the introductions and once we were called upon we made our way to the front to introduce ourselves and our Tribe, respectively. Then we were to shake hands with the Color Guard Soldiers and Royalty. It is very important to be respectful at all times because the dancers, along with our ancestors are watching over us. After the introductions we did an exhibition dance, and at different pow-wows this may vary from the Sneak-Up to the Crow Hop and then some Intertribals. The Head Dancer must stay out there for every song, especially at the beginning of the Pow-wow.

    During the fun songs, like the two-step, the Head Dancers often lead the others. This is an absolute necessity to be able to lead the two-step because you will be having others follow your movements and to avoid people crashing into one another you must know what you are doing. When done properly, this can be a very fun dance.

    The Head Dancer may also be called upon for other Social Dances, such as any Specials. During this particular Pow-wow there was a child dancing for the first time and it was the responsibility of the Head Dancers to walk beside the family of the child who was entering the dance circle for the first time. This was a very special time for this family and I felt very proud to be a part of this centuries old tradition.

    During the breaks, my feet were getting sore, but I stayed in the circle for the most part. I watched the spectators admire all the beautiful dance outfits and then ask several dancers for permission to take their pictures. At the end of the session we had a feast of Roast Pork, which was cooked outside all day.

    All the dancers got paid after each session and generally the Head Dancers get a higher honorarium than the regular dancers. I guess this would depend on the size of the Pow-wow and the amount of dancers registered. This was a very good experience and I will remember it for a long time.
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