The men’s fancy dance is a colorful, athletic performance that belies its historically significant background. In the 1920s, Canada and the United States governments outlawed Native American religious dances, forcing tribes to take their dances underground, and, to create new dances that could legally be danced in public. This is how the fancy dance was born.
The fancy dance is attributed to two young Ponca boys who created a fast-moving, audience-pleasing routine in 1928 at the tribe’s dance arena in White Eagle, Okla. This was right around the time the intertribal pow wow circuit was spreading across the Southern Plains. As other tribes adopted the fancy dance, the moves became increasingly adventurous; cartwheels, splits and backflips.
Today the men’s fancy dance is among the most popular events held at a pow wow, and has turned into a fierce competition. Natives will travel far and wide to compete in the fancy dance competition, like the gentleman in the video below, who traveled from his Harlem home to the University of Washington to compete.