Storm Cloud




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by Ernest Thompson Seton

One of the best-known native dances is the Storm Cloud, the story of the Rising Wind and the Cloud done into a dance. The first time I saw it was at an Indian village on Lake Huron, when a tall, sturdy Indian did it with a buffalo robe. But it is used widely in the west, and the weight of the robe, which is the cloud, is proportional to the strength of the dancer.

It is done by one dancer using a white drape for the cloud. For a child this should be of canton flannel or muslin about two yards long and a yard wide. For a stronger person a heavier drape, even a white blanket is sometimes used. This dance needs a large circle and should not be attempted in a small room.

It portrays the strong and rising wind playing with a cloud, beginning slowly but ending in a cyclone when the dancer spins and shrieking falls flat, while the cloud settles on his face.

The music is chiefly drum, sometimes only drum.

Trailer means the hands raised high and wide apart holding the cloud so that it floats behind.

The Dip consists in bending low to one side so that one hand points straight up, and one straight down, it is given first on one side then the other, the cloud floating behind.

The Eagle Swoop is given every six beats and it takes three beats to do it. Beginning with the hands raised in the trailer, lower the left hand to near the chest, raise the right straight up but forward, swing both down to left, then by swinging the right hand round the head and both hands into trailing position the cloud swings clear. After six more beats repeat at other side.

The Flying Scud or Driving Cloud thus, one end of the drape in left hand tight against the right shoulder, the other end in the right hand with arm fully extended and level, the drape tight between the two hands, then running very fast once around wave the right hand up and down so that the cloud undulates.

The Double Swoop is much like the Eagle Swoop, but the dancer turns face to the right when the left hand swings over, then turns and faces the left as the hands change so that the right is up.

In the Spin the cloud is held tight to the shoulder, as in Flying Scud. Once around is enough for each spin except the final.

In the final, three or four spins will do with grand crescendo, time, etc., then with a scream the dancer drops, jerks the cloud toward his feet, back over his head, then slightly back so it settles over his face and body.

While the drum is sufficient for the dance the effect is better if a low humming chant in correct time is kept up by the drummer. This should increase in volume, and in the climax all should give a high-pitched, prolonged shout while the drum beats a heavy tattoo.

Then all is still.

Sometimes when necessary to shorten it, the 5th and 7th figures are left out, but it always begins with the Walking Trailer and ends with the Spin. The exact and full scenario is as follows

(Each figure goes once around.)

1st. Walking Trailer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . brisk march time

2nd. Walking Trailer . . with side dip . . brisk march time

3rd. Running Trailer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . double quick time

4th. Running Trailer . . with side dip . . double quick time

5th. Eagle Swoop, 6 beats to the trailer pause and 3 beats to the dip.

6th. Flying Scud.

7th. Trailer and Double Eagle Swoop, 6 beats trailer and 3 beats for each swoop.

8th. Flying Scud, with a spin for each of the four Winds.

9th. Double Eagle Swoop without trailer.

10th. Spin in center, wind screams as the dancer drops flat then dies.

Dead Calm.

The Birch Bark Roll






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Peer- Level Topic Links:
[ 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 ]

Parent- 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.