The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West

By Barre Toelken | Go to book overview

3
Kinetic Patterns of Performance
Dance

When I dance with all my regalia on—animal skins, feathers, shells,
ermine furs—(it’s not a costume, you know), I feel like all the living
beings of the world are with me. There are the wingeds, the four-
leggeds, the ocean beings, and the fur-bearers; when you dance
surrounded by them, it makes you feel majestic. Dancing without
regalia is just empty
,

—Vanessa Brown, Navajo powwow dancer

A powwow is like dancing to your heartbeat with all your friends,

—Jimmy Boy Dial, an eastern Indian
powwow dancer, quoted in the New
York Times

Why do people dance? Obviously, it’s a form of artistic expression, but that begs the question: Why do we do it? What does it accomplish that we could not do for ourselves some other way? And why do different cultures understand dance in different ways? There must be a lot of possibilities but let me suggest one: Dance, as a conscious organization of human body movements, is a kind of kinetic “italics”; everyday movements of the arms, legs, head, and torso are extended, foregrounded, exaggerated, and reorganized to mean something beyond mere practical human motion. Though some forms of modern dance encourage dancers to move in special ways for artistic impact, traditional dance can be described as normal human movement made meaningful more by its culturally driven organization and nuance than the individual dancer’s interpretation. Just as visual art allows us to create concrete objects to articulate complex cultural values, just as stories and songs allow the expression of cultural ideas in the patterns of oral performance, so dance allows us to dramatize, to act out, to embody a set of ideas or values which otherwise would remain unarticulated.

-80-

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The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Dedication and Acknowledgments ix
  • She Comes along Carrying Spears xi
  • Prologue- The Snail’s Clues 1
  • 1- Cultural Patterns in Native American Folklore An Introduction 9
  • 2- Visual Patterns of Performance Arts 25
  • 3- Kinetic Patterns of Performance Dance 80
  • 4- Oral Patterns of Performance Story and Song 110
  • 5- Patterns and Themes in Native Humor 146
  • 6- Cultural Patterns of Discovery 165
  • Epilogue- "Gleaning" and the Active Audience 191
  • Notes 197
  • Index 198
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