I used to spend quite a bit of time at pow wows, and Grass Dancers were always my favorite. The men who danced in the Traditional category were quite serious and could be intimidating, and both the dances and the regalia they wore was quite varied. My stepson was a Fancy Dancer. Impressive, fast footwork, and very flashy.
But the Grass Dancers always seemed to me so very graceful and down to earth. The dance involves wide steps and pivots and avoiding having two feet on the ground, much of the time. Sonny James was a Grass Dancer, so I thought I’d post a pic here along with a short excerpt Delsyn’s Blues.
Down below, I’ve added a photo of some young Fancy Dancers—like Delsyn tried to be despite his illness. You only see them from the back, their beautiful double bustles, and one of a Jingle Dress Dancer. Jingle Dress is my favorite among the women’s pow wow dances, and when Sonny’s mother was young, she danced that style.
Sonny’s dance amazed Luki, full of cross-steps, leaning sideways, long legs moving side to side in the midst of a pivot, almost never both feet on the ground on the same time. In the here and now, he looked to the other end of the couch where Sonny lounged in pajamas, scooping up huge tablespoonfuls of Rocky Road out of the carton and then licking it off like a creamy Popsicle.
“What is that,” Luki asked. “What you’re doing there?”
“What, this?” Sonny held out the half-eaten spoon of ice cream, a blank look accompanying the ice cream on his chin.
Luki smiled, couldn’t help it. “No, sweetie,” he laughed. “That might be fun to talk about some other time, but I meant what you’re doing on the TV.”
“That’s all you’re going to tell me?”
Sonny flashed a smile, then looked more thoughtful, formulating his answer. “Well, you know, there’s lots of stories people tell about how it started. Most often, I think, people say that back in the day, the young men danced like this to knock the grass down and trample it so that the people would have a place to gather.” He put his spoon down and pried open the shortbread tin. “Or to get rid of snakes in the grass. Now it’s a dance style people do at powwows, but it helps if you remember that story, imagine yourself knocking down tall grass.”
“You’re good at it?”
“Was. Haven’t danced for a long time.”
“And Delsyn wanted to be like you.”
“Oh, yeah,” Sonny laughed, “at least he thought he did. Later he discovered he was really a Fancy Dancer. Which was very hard on his knees and ankles, but I couldn’t talk him out of it.”
Here are the Fancy Dancers. It’s amazing when you see them in motion! They twirl at high speed, and do complicated steps, and at times even do flips and other acrobatics.
And here are a few young women in their jingle dresses. This style of dancing involves mostly a beautiful shuffle with a sway of the hips, so that the jingles move in unison and keep time with the drum. It seems subdued, but it takes an athlete to do it well.
I visited Goodreads this evening and discovered a warm-the-author’s-heart review of Delsyn’s Blues by a reader/reviewer named Lisa. The 4.25 stars are sweet, but the words she wrote left me feeling good all over. Here’s the link to Lisa’s review. (Many thanks Lisa.)
Incidentally the photo above is here for no reason except that I like it, and it was taken in the general area where Delsyn went into the woods, in Delsyn’s Blues, and it’s… that type of forest, likely to be spooky at night. Taken by Michael McKee, website here.
A few months ago Lisa at Top2Bottom Reviews reviewed Loving Luki Vasquez and, to my surprise and delight, interviewed me. I had a lot of fun answering her questions, and I was thrilled with the review. Now the wiley Vasquez & James have made it into Lisa’s Top Picks! Click here to check out the list—we’re in great company! Thanks, Lisa and Top2Bottom Reviews!
(By the way, if you click the title in the list, it takes you to the review, and that’s linked to the interview. I hope you’ll check it out.)