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Traditional Dancing

Choctaw dances are intended for participation and not performance. For many years , Choctaws danced for entertainment after community ball games and other gatherings. Community groups still gather sometimes just for the fun of dancing. Competition has never had a place in Choctaw dance.

Traditional dance also fosters a pride in being Choctaw. Contemporary social dance groups represent most of the Choctaw communities and their styles of dancing will often reflect their community of origin.

At the Choctaw Fair, visitors have an excellent opportunity to compare these community variations as they watch the dancers. Sometimes the difference may be in a dance step, other times, in the chant. Only rarely are actual Choctaw words heard in the chants. The dancers are led by the rise and fall of the chanter's voice; the chants are most often made up of syllables sung to carry a melody. The chanter usually keeps time by striking together a pair of sticks, called striking sticks.

Choctaw dances also exemplify a spirit of cooperation, because of the way the chanters, dance leaders and dancers work together. There are three kinds of Choctaw dance: war dances, social dances, and animal dances that recognize creatures that were important to the Choctaw people.

War dances were used by early Choctaws to prepare for battle. Choctaw war dances are unusual in that the women join the men in dancing. In most other tribes, only men take part in the war dance. Social dances mark important aspects of life such as friendship, courtship and marriage. They include stealing partners, the friendship dance, and the wedding dance, among others. Animal dances often mimic the behavior of their namesakes, with dancers darting in and out of the dance circle like playful raccoons in the raccoon dance or forming a line that coils and uncoils in the snake dance.

The House Dance is evidence of the Choctaws' ability to adapt elements of other cultures to their own. Dancers use steps and movements from AngloDancers Anglo---American square dance and the French quadrille and the fiddle accompaniment is adapted from Anglofiddle Anglo---American tunes. The caller starts the dance and signals the dancers when it is time to move to the next step.