Dakota pow wow drumming, singing and dancing is part of the fabric of their society, yet Chief Lola Thunderchild says they don’t hold practice nights to perfect the artform.
Watching the small children, as well as the adults perform at the pow wow on May 10, the dancers seem well prepared, beyond their colourful dress.
Do dancers, drummers and singers have practice once a week? How do they prepare for a pow wow?
Of the dancers, Canupawakpa’s Chief Lola Thunderchild shakes her head no, saying, “Right from when they first learn to walk, we just encourage it, give them that first little introduction when they’re kids… and support them throughout their whole life.”
It’s different for the drummers, who perform their rhythms with precision, often while singing.
“The drums do get together and practice. Each song is different,” Thunderchild explains. Done in the Dakota language, different songs express different situations.
She explains about the Fancy Dancers. “They’re dancing to challenge the drum… a dancer’s challenge… to see if they can trick each other. As a dancer, you need to be open to what kind of song they’re singing.
“My kids dance at home. Just a couple of steps here and there. We don’t set aside a practice time. It’s just kind of ingrained in them. My granddaughter was watching the other Jingle Dress dancer, following the lead of the older girl and that’s how she’ll learn.
The youth who performed in Virden, in TOGP did o before their peers, sometimes a difficult thing to do in any discipline. “It takes a lot of courage to get out there and dance in front of a whole group of people.”
But this year, Thunderchild says her granddaughter has been very shy about dancing. But she sees progress in her granddaughter. “Well, even my granddaughter, waving at her peers, for them to see her in a different perspective, she looked over and the whole (group of students in the stands) was waving at her. The smile on her face, she was just beaming!” Today, Quinn Taylor was having fun in her dances. “It does a lot for their self-esteem. I see her today, hitting that next level. I’m very, very proud of her.”