Amy Truex
Grade Level: 3rd + 4th
Time Frame: 45 minutes

Native American Friendship Dance

Topic: A dance lesson inspired by Native American custom using locomotor movements to perform a group dance project.

Rationale: The performing arts offer artistic perception, creative expression, historical and cultural context and aesthetic valuing. This dance helps students understand dance history and develops cultural awareness. Students are given the opportunity to compare the differences in cultural beliefs and methods of representations, as well as the commonalties among cultures. Through understanding dance from difference cultures students are able to view events and themes from the perspective of diverse contexts.

Component Objectives:
Historical and Cultural Context: In a class discussion, students will be introduced to the symbolism, spiritual and historical aspect of the Native American Friendship Dance.

Artistic Perception: Each student will demonstrate the proper steps in sequence to the Native American Friendship Dance. Because this dance has a prescribed rhythm students have to perceive the beat to the music and learn to step on a certain beat.

Strategy: Direct Instruction

Body Awareness--understanding difference between left and right
Space--number of dancers dictates the amount of space needed
Tempo--uneven beat, consists of a series of beats in a stressed and unstressed rhythm (ONE, two, ONE, two, ONE, two)

Background Information for Teachers: Literal and figurative components of this apparently simple dance are deceiving. There are many symbolic gestures behind the dance. In this dance everyone faces each other in a circle and through this you can literally, see diversity within the group. Here we have eye contact so we can see and accept our differences. This is a dance that is unique to Native culture, at the same time it’s nearly universal to Native American Nations of Turtle Island (North American Continent). In the friendship dance the students literally extend their hands in friendships. Historically, this dance has been going on for hundreds of years. It serves spiritual and social needs of Native Americans. In a contemporary sense, this is called a Round Dance, which is a ‘friendship dance’ that often starts the Pow Wow. When it’s performed the audience, including non-natives is invited to participate. This dance is one of the few in which non- natives are invited to participate. In most situations the audience is only considered spectators.

Introduction: The teacher asks the students, “How many of you know how Indians dance?” Group discussion about where they got these ideas. Today we are going to have a chance to learn an authentic (not one from the movies) Native American dance. Also, this is a chance to make new friends. We will also learn about Native American culture.

Pupil Activity Sequence:
1. Move the desks to the side of the room for adequate space.
2. Set tape to the Round Dance song.
Teacher demonstrates by self then has two or three students come up. Everyone hold hands side by side. Teacher is leader in demonstration. Teacher steps sideways with left foot on stressed beat. Right foot slides to meet left foot on unstressed beat. Students must understand body awareness and that the left foot is the dominant foot, also recognize the dominant tempo in the song. Everyone is moving to the left, which is clockwise. Everyone must do this to be successful as a unit and learn to work as a cohesive unit. After demonstration, all students are invited to join hands and from one large circle. (Concentric circle can be made if there are too many students to fit into one circle.) This rhythm sequence is repeated in a circular pattern with dancers facing into the center of the circle. These movements are repeated until the song is over.

Closure: Ask students to express how they felt about sharing a dance that is part of another culture. Do they feel like they began to make new friends? How do they feel about demonstrating this dance for their family and friends outside of school? Can you think of any other culture who dance like this? Or have friendship dances? (Example: friendship dances from your families’ background.)

Evaluation: Evaluation will include teacher watching individuals and group performance. Did they follow instructions and understand left from right while keeping rhythm? During the closure discussion, teacher will look for further interest in students’ own unique cultural heritage. Also, listen during discussion for an appreciation of Native American culture.

Materials: A tape recorder and a tape of Native American music, which specifically includes Round Dance music.

Clean Up: 2 minutes to rearrange the desks.

Extensions: Great for the beginning of the year project for the whole school or classroom for the students to meet. Can be used as an introduction to a year-long cultural appreciation curriculum. Can be used as an introduction to: Native American studies, dance, multiculturalism in the classroom, a unit on music or history.

Reference material provided by Wa Ko Tewa Brigit Truex, of the Cree-Abenaki heritage.

Music recommended: Veteran's Round Dance Side 1, track 4
Porcupine Singers at the University of South Dakota.
Volume 4. Canyon Records, 1979.