The Creeks and Their Dances (3)
By Ghost Dancer
Now I must speak about the Panther or Tiger Dance. This dance is conducted by the Panther or Tiger Clan for members of the clan and those who want to invoke or call for the spirit of panther or tiger to come to them. Dancers first fast and purge themselves using the black drink and then prepare their bodies for the dance. Dancers wear the whole hide and head of the big cat. Many have their faces painted to resemble their spirit animal with claws hanging from their neck.
As the Clan Mother of the Panther Clan screams the panther cry, the rattles begin rattling. The dancers make offerings to the spirit of the panther and begin dancing; moving, stalking, and leaping as attacking their prey. Each dancer will be seeing the panther, visualizing in their minds its heart, its spirit, its body, and its mind; invoking all its characteristics to become one with them. They will feel it, taste it, hear it, know it, and believe it. Faster and faster they dance and move; leaping, pouncing, clawing and snarling through the night until they lay exhausted and the dream becomes real and the spirit of the big cat is there speaking with them; welcoming them as family. Other Panther Clan members and clan mothers will watch over them as they lay receiving the gifts and teachings from the spirit of the big hunter.
Now many of you know how sneaky we were (still are) always sneaking up on anything. But did you know we have dances for that too? Well we do. They are called just that, Sneak-up dance. Now in the old, old days these were to show off highly creative athletic abilities for being flexible, balanced and in rhythm. The dancers would prepare themselves in different styles and techniques of camouflage to blend in. These dances were conducted by the war clans and rattles were used to begin the dance. Then silence.
The drummers take their sticks and start tapping the on the edge of the drum like a woodpecker, faster and faster as the dancers begin moving, twisting and bending with their feet moving in perfect time to the drum. Then the lead drummer hits the center of the drum and all the drummers begin playing and singing the sneak-up song to a steady fast rhythm. The dancers feet must make every single beat. Then suddenly it stops. Every dancer had better be in rhythm with a foot down or he is out. In sneaking up on a prey or enemy, many times you must freeze, no matter what. So “being out” means the dancer was judged to not be frozen at the sudden stop of the drum beat and must leave the dance area. Now the only one who knows when the drum will stop is the lead drummer. He uses signals to let the other drummers now and they follow him. This applies to all songs and dances.
The lead drummer is usually the lead singer as well. Now winning this dance was very important back then because these skills are highly desired by all. Going from a dance of frenzy to a sudden stop with no warning yet so sensitive to the drum that you are prepared for anything, that takes skill. The dance continues till everyone has been eliminated except one.
Now days the Sneak-up dance is still played and done a little differently. I would recommended it to all of you, even learning to properly dance in rhythm with drum it is very fun and teaches you lots of balance and skills. Today we use this in a chair game in the center of the area. Depending on how many dancers there are , there will always be one chair short and includes female and male, young and old alike. When the drum stops everyone must sit in a chair. The first in the chair wins the seat. The person left without a chair is eliminated. This is a game of laughter, and fun and breaks the ice in any gathering. Kids love it because it’s a game. We always have prizes for the winner but it isn’t really about prizes, it is about having fun and laughing. There is more honor gained in letting a child or elder win than in winning yourself in a game like this.
© Ghost Dancer 2017