The grass dance is one of the oldest and most widely used dances in Native American culture. Depending on the variation of the dance and tradition of the nation it can be done by either men or women. Although traditionally a men's dance, more women are begining to enjoy the dance and what it represents. In the days when the tribes moved from place to place, the grass dancers would be the first to step on the place where the tribe would set up its tents and would literally stamp down the grass or pull it up and stick the grass in their clothing.
Some believe that the "Grass Dance" came from young boys tying grass on their outfits. Before a dance could be held on the prairie, the grass had to be stomped down. Afterward, the boys would tie clumps of grass to themselves and play dance. Many believe that the Omaha tribe originated the dance.
The regalia worn by dancers is unique because each strand of yarn or fringe attached to the arms and back of the costume represents the grass. These strands must move in time with the dancer and replicate the movement of grass blowing in the breezes.
The Grass Dance is the most beautiful and graceful of all the men's dances with emphasis on long, fluid body motions to emulate waving prairie grass. The mark of an expert Grass Dancer is his ability to keep his head nodding from side to side, or up and down, in time to the drum beat in order to keep the feathers resting on his roach headdress constantly spinning.
The dancer enters the arena and begins the dance to the slow beat of the designated drummer. As the dancer begins to sway, the movement of the body causes the fringe attached to the regalia to move in opposite direction as the dancer. The dancer will then move about the arena slowly in a clockwise direction. The dancer is so skilled you can barely detect his or her feet moving side to side in a shuffling manner. The body moves right, the fringe on the regalia moves left, while the feet sway from side to side.
While watching the grass dance you do feel as if the dancer is actually lighter than air and that he or she is blowing in the wind. It is as if they become blade of grass. The key is for the dancer to respond like a blade of grass would in the wind. The focus and concentration of the dancer allows he dancer to actually become the blade of grass in his or her min
Grass Dance performed at Earthday 1996 in Florida