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Straight Dance

It is believed that the Ponca tribe of Oklahoma created this style of dance. The Straight Dance is a formal, tailored, prestigious form of southern dance. The overall effect is of reassuring solidity, with everything closely matched and coordinated. It looks as if it is planned all at one time

These dancers often seem to be looking for something as they move around the arena. The dance was conceived as a way for men to tell a story about hunting or warfare. Often, they are looking for an unseen enemy, a deer or buffalo hiding in tall grass. When the dancers do spot their prey, they will sometimes erupt with a joyful shout. Then they will move quickly in that direction to do what must be done. Dramatic interpretation scores high with the judges as does authenticity of their outfits.

The regalia often includes elaborately and brightly colored beadwork. Sometimes, the headgear they wear is very unusual. Occasionally, you will see a dancer wearing the head of an animal as part of their dance outfit.

The items that should match on the dancer’s regalia are arranged as sets, and everything should be closely coordinated.

The garters are finger woven. The side tabs match and hang from hip to mid-calf. The better sets have beads woven into the fabric. Osage, Sac and Fox, or Ponca ribbon work runs down each side of the aprons, the leggings, and three bars of it cross the dragger. The aprons, leggings, trailer, and otter dragger or drop are all made of heavy wool, usually dark blue. Red wool is usually reserved for the eldest son. One, two, or three ribbons bind the raw edges not covered by the main ribbon work, and the edges are ornamented with white edge beading.

Kiowa and Comanche dancers usually were tab leggings. These are usually made of white or natural leather but are also made of canvas. At both knees, two tabs hang from the leggings. These are usually backed with red or blue wool. From the bottom of the tabs hang horsehair or twisted fringe. The tabs are also decorated with lines of lazy stitch beadwork and edge beading. The Kiowa tabs are generally triangular, with the end coming to a point, Comanche tabs are generally squared off at the end. Below the tabs going down the leggings are many strands of twisted leather fringe.

The belt is a strip of loom beadwork, 4 to 4 1/2 inches wide, and is mounted on heavy leather, or is sometimes made of silver conchos. Silver spots stud the edges of the leather. An otter strip, about 2 inches wide, is attached with one or two beaded rosettes or silver conchos and hangs down the back. Some dancers also have all concho draggers. The spreader, arm bands, and slide are made of German sliver, in stamped, overlay, or cutout patterns. One feather is usually put in the spreader.

The beadwork set is done in Peyote or Comanche beadwork. The fan is usually a flat or loose fan. Feathers are also attached with rosettes or conchos and may be worn with or without an otter strip. The bandoliers match materials and colors but may have from one to three strands or sometimes even four or more, worn crisscross on the body.

The ribbon shirt is made of satin, brocade, or floral print material, with contrasting ribbon. The neckerchief, scarves, and arm band ribbons match the ribbon in the shirt. Scarves are attached to the bandoliers at the shoulder blades. The roach is made of porcupine hair, and either white or red deer hair. A roach made of turkey beard hair is sometimes seen and is more prized than others. The headband is usually a white scarf. Dancers also sometimes carry a pouch of white deerskin, with beaded decoration or other types of bags.

Bells may be either chrome or brass and are mounted on a long leather strip. The moccasins are usually Southern Cheyenne and should be at least partially beaded. A Straight Dancer will carry either a mirror board or a tail stick in their right hand. The tail stick originated as the badge of office of a Tail Dancer. Today the tail stick is carried by many dancers. A tail stick is usually given to a Straight Dancer by another experienced dancer. A mirror board is a substitute for the tail stick and may be carried by any dancer.

There are a lot of clothes to wear in the outfit, and accordingly, the dance is slow and proud. The art of straight Dancing is in the little, sometimes unnoticed things, both in the movement and the outfit. Smoothness, precision with the song, knowledge of dance etiquette, and a powerful sense of pride mark the outstanding Straight Dancer.


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