What is the Fancy Shawl Dance?

The Fancy Shawl Dance is a newer form of traditional Indigenous dance typically performed by women. Found in Canada and along the northern border of the US, it is also called the Northern Shawl Dance.

Like its name suggests, an important element is the shawl, a beautiful and colourful part of the regalia for this dance that is draped over the shoulders. This is decorated with bright and complicated designs that can include beading, ribbon work, painting and applique. The shawl helps to create the illusion of the dancer as butterfly.

The dance itself has no standard set of steps, but the dancers must always hold at least one of their arms aloft to continue the butterfly. In competition judges look for rhythm, symmetry and repetition within the creative and athletic movements presented by the dancer.