The Straight Dance from Oklahoma Native American Tribes is a formal, tailored, prestigious form of southern dance clothes. The overall effect is of reassuring solidity, with everything closely matched and coordinated. It looks as if it is planned all at one time.
This dance has evolved from the Hethuska Dances. It is believed that the Ponca tribe of American Indians created this style. The Hethuska are dances held by different societies. There are several articles in the standard set. The items that should match are arranged as sets, and everything should be closely coordinated.
The garters are finger woven. The side tabs match, and hang from hip to mid-calf. The better sets have beads woven into the fabric. Osage, Sac and Fox, or Ponca ribbonwork runs down each side of the aprons, the leggings, and three bars of it cross the dragger. The aprons, leggings, trailer, and otter dragger or drop are all made of heavy wool, usually dark blue. Red wool is usually reserved for the eldest son. One, two, or three ribbons bind the raw edges not covered by the main ribbonwork, and the edges are ornamented with white edge beading. Rainbow selvage edges mark the better sets made from trade cloth. Ribbonwork vests are becoming popular also.
Kiowa and Comanche usually were tab leggings. These are usually made of white or natural leather, but are also made of canvas. At both knees, two tabs hang from the leggings. These are usually backed with red or blue wool. From the bottom of the tabs hang horsehair or twisted fringe. The tabs are also decorated with lanes of lazy stitch beadwork and edge beading. The Kiowa tabs are generally triangular, with the end coming to a point. The Comanche tabs are generally squared off at the end. Below the tabs going down the leggings are many strands of twisted leather fringe.
The belt is a strip of loom beadwork, 4 to 4 1/2 inches wide, and is mounted on heavy leather, or is sometimes made of silver conchos. Silver spots stud the edges of the leather. The dancer’s otter strip, it has about 2 inches wide, and is attached with one or two beaded rosettes or silver conchos and hangs down the back. Some dancers also have all concho draggers. The spreader, arm bands, and slide are made of German sliver, in stamped, overlay, or cutout patterns. One feather is usually put in the spreader.
The beadwork set is done in Peyote or Comanche beadwork. The fan is usually a flat or loose fan. The otter feathers are also attached with rosettes or conchos, and may be worn with or without an otter strip. The bandoliers match as to materials and colors, but may have from one to three strands or sometimes even four or more. They are worn crisscross on the body.
The ribbon shirt is made of satin, brocade, or floral print material, with contrasting ribbon. The neckerchief, scarves, and arm band ribbons match the ribbon in the shirt. Scarves are attached to the bandoliers at the shoulder blades. The roach is made of porcupine hair, and either white or red deer hair. A more prized roach is made of turkey beard hair. The headband is usually a white scarf. Dancers sosometimes carry a pouch of white deerskin, with beaded decoration or other types of bags.
Bells may be either chrome or brass, and are mounted on a long leather strip. The moccasins are usually Southern Cheyenne, and should be at least partially beaded. A Straight Dancer will carry either a mirror board or a tail stick in their right hand. The tail stick originated as the badge of office of a Tail Dancer in a Hethuska Society. Today the tail stick is carried by many dancers in and out of the Hethuska Dance. A tail stick is usually given to a Straight Dancer by another experienced dancer. A mirror board is a substitute for the tail stick, and may be carried by any dancer.
There are a lot of clothes to wear in the outfit, and accordingly the dance is slow and proud. The art of straight Dancing is in the little, sometimes unnoticed things, both in the movement and the outfit. Smoothness, precision with the song, knowledge of dance etiquette, and a powerful sense of pride mark the outstanding Straight Dancer.
Find out more in the Straight Dance Forum.
See more pictures of Straight Dancers in the Straight Dance Gallery.