The dances conducted by today’s Pueblo Indians are part of a year-round, continuing cycle of rituals based on agriculture and achieving a proper balance with nature.
The cycle of planting foods, most importantly corn, shaped the ancient Pueblo religion at its origins. In order to determine the proper times for planting, cultivating, and harvesting, the early Pueblo peoples studied the patterns of nature and the movements of the sun, moon, clouds, and wind. To mark the seasonal cycles, they conducted prayer dances calling for rain during the growing season or snow in winter, for instance, or giving thanks for a good harvest or successful hunt in the fall.
Because the primary goals of the ceremonial dances are to restore order and balance in the world and to insure the survival of the group, many Pueblos regard participation in the dances as a community obligation, even today.
Pueblo Dance Outfits
Pueblo dancers wear special clothing created especially for ceremonial purposes. Designs and colors similar to those embroidered on the outfits of today’s dancers can be seen on the attire of people depicted on prehistoric kiva wall paintings. The designs express a shared symbolism the Pueblos have carried forward over hundreds of years.
Family members often pass dance outfits down for several generations. New dancers sometimes borrow pieces from relatives or other families until they can make or acquire their own.
Because Pueblo dances are religious rituals, not theatrical performances, dance outfits are not regarded as “costumes,” but as ceremonial garments that are themselves a part of the sacred ritual.
Basic Dance Garments:
School for Advanced Research