What is Traditional Indigenous Dance?

Traditional Indigenous dance comes in countless forms as there are hundreds and hundreds of different First Nations across Turtle Island (North America) alone, each one with its own distinct culture. This diversity is key to understanding and appreciating dance and its place within Indigenous society. One of the dancers featured in PULSE, Santee Smith shares this insight:

Having learned so many different styles, I can say that some similarities tend to be the understanding that dance is integral to “way of life.” Dance is not separated out into its own discipline as in Euro-Western culture. When speaking to the state of Indigenous dance/performance: I understand our performance to be integrated, interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional, multi-voiced, intergenerational, inter-cultural, transformative, abstracted and literal embodied narratives. It spans ancestral to futurity, holding past, present and future in one space, experience, and body. Indigenous performance transcends the binary debate between traditional vs contemporary and includes processes and outcomes that aren’t founded on Euro-Western ideologies. – Santee Smith in Villainesse https://www.villainesse.com/culture/connection-transformation-and-healing-through-dance-indigenous-performer-santee-smith-shares

Dance is a fundamental feature of powwows, potlatches and other Indigenous celebrations and rituals. It can be a way to celebrate and communicate ancestral knowledge and stories along with other performance and cultural practices, as well as a way to explore and shape the future. And as traditional Indigenous dances were illegal in Canada until 1951, they carry extra significance and importance when performed today.

The Indigenous dancers of PULSE each come with this complex history which undoubtedly informs their artistic practice whether dancing more traditional forms or not. Some of the traditional dances that appear in the series are: