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Wacipi presents exciting dance styles and traditional regalia

The annual Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi (Pow Wow) will be held Friday through Sunday, August 17, 18 and 19, 2012, at the Wacipi Grounds on the SMSC reservation. To better understand and enjoy the Wacipi, below is information on the different styles of dancing that visitors might see at the SMSC Annual Wacipi. More detailed information as well as photos and other information will be available at the event in the Wacipi Program which is free to all guests and participants.

Dance Styles
There are many types of dancing, with categories divided by age and gender. Each style of regalia has its unique look, though the individual elements will differ based on each dancer’s personal taste, tribal customs, and available resources. Each dancer creates his or her own regalia through many hours of hard work with each component having historical, spiritual, and personal significance. Often items are passed from one generation to the next or gifted to friends or relatives. Some items may be very, very old. Since these are so special, please do not touch any part of a dancer’s regalia without permission. Regalia may also be referred to as an outfit, but never a costume, which would have negative connotations.

Are there any special requirements to compete in the contests or participate in Grand Entry?
Dancers in regalia must be registered and have a Wacipi button to participate in Grand Entry and contest songs. Numbers must be worn at all times in the arena. Only men and boys can compete in their categories; likewise, only women and girls can compete in their respective categories.

Why do the outfits look so different?
There are many types of dancing, with categories divided by age and gender. Each dancer creates his or her own regalia through many hours of hard work with each component having historical, spiritual, or personal significance. Often items are passed from one generation to the next or gifted to friends or relatives. Some items may be very, very old. Since these are so special, please do not touch any part of a dancer’s regalia without permission. If a piece of a dancer’s regalia has fallen, show the dancer the lost item and let them pick it up.

How are the dancers judged?
Judges are selected by the Wacipi staff and use three major criteria to judge the dancers: The dancer’s knowledge and skill with the specific moves of their category, how well they keep time with the drum and start and stop on the right beat, and their regalia. Missing a beat or dropping part of regalia is a deduction or disqualification. There is no judging during Intertribals or Honor Songs.

What are characteristics of Men’s Traditional regalia?
Male Traditional dancers may wear beadwork, a breastplate, a back bustle made of eagle or hawk feathers, matching round arm bands, ankle bells, a breechcloth, choker, a wapeca (wah-pe-sha, a feathered porcupine/eagle feather headdress also called a “roach”), leggings and moccasins. Some regalia may include pieces of fur or bone from animals. Dance movements include active head movements re-enacting warriors searching the ground for tracks of enemy or prey. The dancer moves with his chest thrown out, head high, in a proud demeanor while performing special footwork. Dancers may carry a fan, dance stick, whistle, hoop or scarf and may wear face paint. Southern Straight is a regional variation with no bustle and a straighter, smoother dance style.

What is the Grass Dance?
This dance is very old. It dates back to the old days when Grass Dancers were the first to dance after moving camp to introduce the people to the earth in that geographic area. They prepared the earth in a good way for the people to follow and for other dancers. Grass Dancers wear long, flowing fringe of yarn or ribbons to represent the grass; a yoke; breechcloth; a wapeca; fringed anklets; ankle bells; beadwork; and moccasins. Their feet perform a variety of slides, hops, and other moves as they shake and sway like the flowing prairie grass in the wind.

What is the Fancy Feather dance?
Men’s Fancy Feather dancing is performed by men and boys and has its origin in the old war dances. Regalia is usually bright, colorful, and elaborate, and includes two long fringed back bustles, a head roach, decorated yokes and breechcloths, angora anklets, ankle sheep bells, moccasins, and arm bands. The dance steps are fast, intricate movements which include twisting, leaping, twirling, splits, footwork, and acrobatics. Dance sticks are carried and twirled during this high energy dance.

What are characteristics of female traditional dancers?
Female Traditional dancers wear buckskin or cloth ankle-length or mid-calf dresses, sometimes decorated with elk teeth or dentalium shells. Regalia include a knee-length breastplate, leggings, brass tack or leather belt, otter braid wraps, beadwork, and moccasins. Dancers may also carry a long-fringed shawl, fan, bag, or scarf. Dance movements are dignified and graceful and characterized by the swaying of fringe. Northern dancers often wear a fully-beaded yoke or cape and stay in one spot, bobbing gently up and down and turning their feet to the side on designated beats. Southern Buckskin/Cloth is a regional variation where dancers may wear a buckskin or cloth dress and beaded crown while they make their way slowly around the Arena while dancing.

What is the Fancy Shawl dance?
Fancy Shawl dancers are women and girls who usually wear colorful, elaborate regalia with a calf-length skirt and a beaded or sequined cape. A long, fringed shawl is worn over the shoulders and held out at the elbows. Regalia may also include beaded belts, crowns, hairpieces, braid wraps, leggings, and moccasins. Movements include fine footwork and fast spins meant to mimic a joyful butterfly.

What is the Jingle Dress dance?
Jingle Dress dancers are females who wear cloth dresses with tin cones made out of chewing tobacco can lids. An adult dress with 365 cones, representing the days of the year, can weigh several pounds. Dance movements include a straight posture, up and down motion, and hopping or rocking with the feet moving in a shuffle. Arms are bent at the elbows, with hands on hips or carrying a scarf, fan, or purse. On honor beats the fan is raised proudly in the air. No shawl is worn.

What are Tiny Tots?
All children age five and under in regalia are invited to dance, either by themselves or with a parent, older sibling, or relative. Each dancer is given a small gift after each Tiny Tot exhibition.

What is the Golden Age category?
Golden Age dancers are those sixty and older. They can dance any style and can compete in the Golden Age category as well as in their dance style category.

What is the Sneak Up?
A Sneak Up dance is a dance of the Great Plains, generally done by male traditional dancers. The movements resemble a warrior moving from rock to bush sneaking up on, scouting and battling the enemy or prey.

What is the Crow Hop?
The Crow Hop is a dance where the dancers mimic a crow (bird) hopping around on the ground.

What is a round dance?
In a round dance where guests are invited to participate in a social dance for all ages and genders. A round dance is performed in a circle moving clockwise, sometimes holding hands, and is usually done after a Giveaway or Honor Song.

For more information on the Wacipi, call the Shakopee Wacipi Information Line at 952-392-8964 or go to www.shakopeedakota.org. The SMSC Wacipi is also on Facebook. Due to the high demand for vendor spaces at the SMSC Wacipi, all vendors are by invitation only.

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