March Powwow offered fancy dancing, bliss

The 2011 March Powwow and all the festivities therein taught me something I suspect is tremendously important. If you are wearing feathers, mirrors, bells, and dancing like you are a force of nature -- if you are even in close proximity to people doing these things -- it is near impossible to be unhappy.

Native American ritual is sort of stereotyped as a solemn, restrained business, and while to a degree this is true, even at its most dignified and most symbolic dance is dance. Meaning: a physical expression of joy. Frolicking, I have learned, can be an incredibly spiritual experience. Also, it is ridiculously fun to watch.

Admittedly, I know nothing about traditional dance. For the purposes of powwowing, though, it is conducted as a competition; dancers are divided into categories and perform. And, you know, are judged, ranked and given prizes and so forth -- but the categorization and the performance parts are all that most spectators really care about. Six-year-olds stomping around in feathers and beads? That's awesome. Men head-bobbing and foot-scuffing? That's awesome. "Chicken dance?" That's awesome.

Surrounded by so much awesomeness, you really can't help but bask. The world should operate exactly like this, with drumming and chanting and spinning and elaborate costuming.

There's an overquoted Native American folk tale about an old man who tells his son about the two wolves inside him, one representing struggle and anger and one serenity and contentment. They are equally strong, the old man says; the one that wins is the one he feeds. At the risk of overextending the whole indigenous culture analogy, events like this one feed the good wolf. Honestly, pants with bells? Who wouldn't be thrilled?

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