Birch Bark Dances
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by Ernest Thompson Seton

John Ruskin surprised the world some fifty years ago by his eloquent plea for dancing as a mental training. Our educators have slowly accepted the idea and, some twenty years ago, began to seek in Europe for folk-dances that would furnish amusement combined with rhythmic exercise and the chance for dramatic expression.

Many good dances were brought from England, Russia, and Hungary, etc., before we awakened to the fact that in this department the richest of all lands to-day is our own country. There are more and better folk-dances in America than in any other country that we know of.

There are scores of charming Indian folk-dances which the Woodcrafter would like to know, a few of which are given here. They have been tried out many times and approved by leading educators. More than any others at present available, they contain the possibility of graceful movement, exercise, and dramatic expression.

It is unfortunate that the crouch of one certain dance has been accepted by many of the public as the only position in the Indian dances, for it has blinded us to the real beauties of their typical performances.

It is difficult for us to realize how much dancing meant to the Red Men. It figured in all their social and athletic life. The dance was a great public opportunity to either tell in pantomime historical facts or interpret ideas. The vital things of their everyday life, as well as their dramatic adventures, were presented at the Council Ring through the dance. The chase, the things connected with their religion; love and hate, peace and war, were all set forth to music and movement at the Council Fire.

The time most used for these dances is two-time; a heavy and light beat on the tom-tom, with or without the chant that especially belongs to each particular dance.

The fundamental step is the two-step, which consists of a very short step and a short hop on each foot, with a sharp upward action of the knee. This was meant originally to jingle a string of bells or rattles that were worn on each knee.

The one-time and three-time are less frequently used and are more difficult to do.

The arms and body are swayed and freely used to express the dramatic story; always, of course, rhythmically.

See Also:

Native American "Indian" Dances

The Birch Bark Roll






Additional Information:

Storm Cloud ] Lone Scout ] Shoshoni Dog ] Caribou Dance ] Animal Dance ] Hopi Corn ] Spring Dance ] Fall Dance ] Snake Dance ] Courtship Eagles ] Peace Pipe ] War Dance ] Refference ]

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Native Skills ] Totem Poles ] Indian Sign Language ] Indian Ceremonies ] Indian Dance ] Indian Songs ] [ Birch Bark Dances ] Birch Bark Songs ] Birch Bark Plays ] Indian Games for Boys ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.