Friday, July 23, 2010

Homestead’s Warrior Butterflies

The fancy shawl dance is an athletic, spirited interpretation of what some describe as the dance of a butterfly. This dance was created in the 1950s by native women wishing to match the energetic footwork of the men’s grass and fancy dances. Pearson, a dance choreographer and grass dancer, likens the smooth, rhythmic movements of the dance to a “colorful cyclone.” The color is from the individually decorated shawl that spans the dancer’s shoulders from finger tip to finger tip. The graceful bobs, spins and twirls allow the shawl to flutter and wave like butterfly wings.

Another teaching of the origins of the shawl dance holds that the women dancers represent warriors just as the men of the grass dance do. The honor of warrior originates from the women runners that ran between the native villages warning of upcoming dangers.

Children begin to learn the art of dance at an early age. Small children often join their elders in the dance circle watching carefully and emulating the steps and moves they see their older relatives and mentors executing. Besides learning the dance steps participation teaches children the values of their elders as well as how to honor the customs of their past.

In the video below a dancer, a member of The Many Moccasins Dance Troupe shows the joyous flight of a butterfly after birth. The bright symbols across her back suggest light and brightness while when her shawl whirls and opens it offers quick glimpses of nights bright stars. The Many Moccasins Dance Troupe danced and educated an audience of about 600 at Homestead National Monument on July 17, 2010. The picture to the left shows dancers ending their program with a heart salute shared with the audience.


Dance styles. (2002, January 31). News from Indian Country, p. 19B.
Pearson, T. (2005, October). In the spirit. Dance Magazine, 79, 10. doi: 00116009.
The Many Moccasins Dance Troupe:

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