Cloth and Jingle Dress Dancers

Cloth and Jingle Dress Dancers

Cloth Dance

This is a regal dance of elegance and formal dance of the Pow Wow. The movement is a gentle, graceful sway in exact time to the music. The dancers carry themselves with great dignity. The regalia in this dance really varies from tribe to tribe to the point where you can often identify which Nation a dancer belongs to as a result of their clothing. The dancer’s shawls, handbags, etc., move in time with drumbeat without actively moving their arm.

Southern Cloth Dance

An expression of the Southern Plains is brought to this regal dance, which is considered the perfect counterpart to the men’s Southern Straight Dance. This is a dance of elegance rather than motion. The slow graceful steps and gentle dip in exact time to the drum contribute to the stateliness of the dance. The gentle motion of the shawl folded over the arm is in harmony with the motion of the body to the drumbeat.

The dancers dress originates from the reservation period Kiowa and Comanche camp dresses. The “T” shaped dresses were originally made of inexpensive material, however contemporary styles use, brightly colored taffetas, silks, satins and synthetic blends. The Southern Cloth style can easily be identified by an over skirt that wraps around the dress, a double breast plate that hangs on both the front and rear of the dancer, and characteristically Southern “boots” made by sewing the moccasins and buckskin leggings together. Moderately beaded accoutrements and accessories such as hair barrettes, medallions, purses and a fan complete the Ladies Southern Cloth ensemble.

Jingle Dance

Among the tribes of Canada, the Jingle Dress is relatively new to the southern plains. In the last few years, ladies of other tribes have begun to learn the dance and perform in competition. This is an example of a very old dance, which held a very spiritual meaning.

This dance style originates from the Great Lakes area and is believed by some to have originated as a medicine or healing dance. A young lady of a northern tribe had a dream in which she was shown this type of dress. She was told that if she danced in such a dress, it would heal illness. She obeyed her dream's command, made a dress, and danced the illness away. 

Jingle Dress Dancing is now a very popular dance style and the regalia has gone "Pan Indian," being worn by dancers from many tribes across the  continent. It is a dance of pride and dignity, which allows a significant amount of individual expression. There is no set choreographic pattern, but it is quite active and very exciting to watch.

The Jingle Dress is not only very colorful, but furnishes much of the musical accompaniment for the dance. Long tubular cones form a fringe-like decoration that jingles as the dancer moves. The cones are made by rolling up the tops of tobacco tins, which are then sewn onto these unique dresses. Close your eyes during this dance and it will sound like rain striking a tin roof. Few dances can match the sheer brilliance of costume and sound of the Jingle Dress Dance. This is the only women’s dance style where a shawl is not worn or carried.

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