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Fancy Feather Dancing

Fancy feather dancing is performed as a freestyle dance in unity with the rhythm of a drum. It can be performed in two ways: basic steps while dancing around the drum; or as a “contest step” that involves intricate and rapid footwork in combination with spinning movements of the entire body. Flips, cartwheels, splits and other creative movements are used frequently used. For women, when performing the fancy shawl dance, the movements of the shawl are to look like the fluid movements of a butterfly. The dancer must dance in harmony to the beat of the drum and must strike a pose when the drum beat stops. This form of dance requires high energy, strength and high levels of stamina. The traditional costumes consist of loom beaded sets of suspenders, headbands, armbands, belt cuffs, moccasins and the use of large feather bustles.

Is this activity known by any other names?

Oklahoma Feather Dance; Fancy Dance; Bustle Dance

What are the origins of the activity abroad and in Canada?

Fancy feather dancing originated in Oklahoma, United States. It was developed by the Ponca Native American tribe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Who takes part?

Fancy feather dancing is performed by many Indigenous groups in North America. Although it is predominantly performed by younger men and boys, women perform a variation of fancy feather dancing called the fancy shawl dance.

When does it occur / How often do you take part?

This dance is typically performed during powwow competitions.

Are there any organized clubs, groups, organizations or leagues?

White Pine Dancers

Cultural Significance

The fancy dance was originally a war dance, designed to inspire warriors for battle. For the women’s fancy shawl dance, the movements represent the emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis. The colourful fringe worn by the dancers represents the Rainbow Spirit.

Is there anything else we should know?



  • White Pine Dancers
    6 Osborn Ave.
    Brantford, ON N3T 6P9

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