Native American Powwows are celebrations of heritage and traditions, a way for Native American Indians to connect with each other and keep their culture alive through dance, song and storytelling. Many Native Indian pow wow events are open to the public, providing opportunities to educate non-natives about their culture and traditions, including Native American regalia. While powwows occur year-round, most are held between Memorial Day and Labor Day throughout the US and Canada. Powwows are an important part of Native American life and lots of fun for both participants and spectators. For a list of Native Indian Pow Wow events, see our Native Indian Powwow Calendar.
The Fancy Shawl Dance is the most modern and newest style of Native American dances. It originated in the early 1950s & 1960s with the Northern tribes along the U.S.-Canadian border. At that time it was called &Graceful Shawl Dance& because the steps weren't nearly as intricate as they are today. The dance's current name (Fancy Shawl Dance) comes from the still graceful, but much fancier footwork used by dancers. Today's Fancy Shawl Dance is a beautiful and very strenuous dance typically performed by younger ladies and girls at Native American events.
Representing butterfly wings, dancers move fast; twirling, kicking, and performing intricate steps that are individually choreographed, providing much opportunity for self-expression. These steps must always be in time with the drum, and the shawl dancer should end with both feet on the ground at the last beat. Not only does the footwork and steps signify the butterfly in flight, but also, the dancer's regalia emphasizes this magnificent beauty.
The color scheme of the fancy shawl dance regalia ties together the dress, shawl, moccasins, and accessories. And more importantly, the colors have tribal or personal significance to the dancer. The fringed shawl is worn around the shoulders and is unfurled during the dance, becoming an integral part of the lady's self-expression.
Native American Women's Fancy Shawl Dance is a splash of color, fringe, and footwork, each step so quick and light that the young woman almost looks as though she's dancing on air (like a butterfly). There are different versions of the butterfly legend on which the Fancy Shawl Dance is based. One way to tell it is that there was a beautiful butterfly who lost her mate in a battle. In mourning, she wrapped herself in a cocoon and traveled the world over, stepping on every stone until she found the right one and was able to start her life anew. When she discovered this stone, she celebrated new life with such sheer radiance, that she seemed to be dancing while in flight. It is said that in the old days, when young women came out of mourning, they danced this dance. So, when the Fancy Shawl dancer steps and twirls, she lives out the legend and represents the butterfly's joyful wings. She celebrates new life.
The Northern Fancy Shawl Dance is said to imitate that of a butterfly, so the most important part of this dress is the individual's color scheme. Once that has been determined, a light-weight fabric should be picked. This is to ensure that a dancer will not become over-heated during a dance. Unlike the buckskin and cloth dancers, the Northern lady does not wear knee boots but ankle moccasins and leggings that cover the legs. Moving up, a flared skirt is worn, which may be connected to a tank top or a separate blouse. Next a yoke is worn around the neck. This can be beaded although it is not necessary (Appliqué or paint designs are appropriate). A leather or cloth belt may also be worn to enhance the waist or keep the skirt in place. The main article in this clothing is the shawl. It should span the lady’s arms from finger tip to finger tip . It may be made of any tight double knit material with fringe or ribbon being hand tied every quarter of an inch at the seam of the shawl . The fringe should hang down anywhere from 14 to 18 inches depending on the height of the lady
Crazy Crow Trading Post has long been your number one source for Fancy Shawl Dance regalia & related craft supplies. This photo gallery represents Women's Fancy Shawl Dance outfits, both Northern and Southern Plains, mostly taken at Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We thank Derek Matthews of Gathering of Nations, and others who have given permission to present these photos in this gallery.
Crazy Crow Trading Post - Pow Wow Listings and Native American Crafts Supplies for Fancy Shawl Dance Regalia & Accessories!