Fancy Dancing

Fancy Dancing

“The fancy dancing is – the reason that makes it so unique, it’s a very colorful, fast paced, dance. The drum beats are trying to trick you up, they’re trying to get really fast, they’re trying to see your endurance, trying to make you stop on a dime. As a result, you develop your own style of dancing out there.” — Ben Rupert


“I feel like I’m dancing for people who can’t dance. I pride myself on being very high energy, having a good heart and I’m dancing for the people who can’t dance out there . . . It’s a privilege to be able to dance.” —Ben Rupert

Dancing and music are important aspects of Native American life and culture. Native dancing dates back millennia, but the U. S. government Indian Office considered Native dance uncivilized and immoral. Efforts to suppress dancing and music were unsuccessful. The fancy dancing that is central to powwows is an example of individuality, and an important expression of kinship and community.

How do you feel preservation and adaptation of native culture applies to fancy dancing?

“I think it applies to adaptation like from where it started to where it is now. It’s changed quite a bit, I think. You don’t have as many native kids now doing it. I know a lot of native kids that are in our school but I’m basically the only one who dances at the pow wows. I don’t know how it was back then but I’m sure there were a lot more dancers then than there are now.”

Does it preserve native culture?

“Definitely, yeah. It’s something that’s been kind of dying out and I think if we got more native kids to get more involved with it, I think it would preserve the native culture, cause that’s a big part of native culture, is fancy dancing and pow wows. — John Rupert

Photo of Katie Frasier courtesy of UNR Special Collections

“I just love to dance! I’d be dancing yet today if I could. Us Indians used to have lots of dances here at Pyramid Lake. A long time ago, people would come from all around and make a big camp by the Truckee River where Wadsworth is now, and they would circle dance a whole week.” —Katie Frazier, told to JoAnne Peden, That Was Happy Life

The Eagle Dance

Eagle head picture courtesy of Ben Rupert

Eagle head picture courtesy of Ben Rupert

“I’ve always prayed that the eagle, my eagle that I have with me, that’s been blessed to me for dancing, that that spirit of that bird becomes me. When I’m out there dancing I pray that the heartbeat of that eagle become my heartbeat. And so you take on a spiritual part for that and you’re letting the life of that bird continue on through you and the dance.” — Ben Rupert

Round and Circle Dances

paiute dance

Round or Circle Dances are traditional for many Native American groups. The circle dance was the basis for the Ghost Dance, a Native American religious movement that originated in Nevada.