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Indian Drama Plays for Teachers
Children's Native American Skit

 
 

Home > Social Studies > Native Americans > Plays and Skits > The Life of the Corn Mystery Dance

Native American Play for TeachersNative American Plays, Skits and Dramas

The LIfe of the Corn - A drama in 5 dances

by Alice C. Fletcher

Mystery Dance

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.—This ceremonial dance touches upon the mystery of the giving of life that life may be maintained; an exchange that links together the different forms of life and enhances the joy of living.

Properties.—Thin green mantles; yellow plumes like the corn tassel; bone clips; as many of these articles as there are dancers.

Directions.—This dance belongs to both sexes and a number of each should take part, if that is possible. Should there be trees near the open space where the dance takes place, one-half of the dancers, closely wrapped in their green mantles, should be grouped at one side among the trees and the other half similarly placed at the other side. In the center of the space a single dancer stands facing the rear, wrapped about the head and body with the green mantle, leaving only the face exposed.

All being in readiness, the central figure turns slowly, lifts a draped arm and says slowly and impressively:

"Harken! The Corn speaks!"

The group of dancers on the right then sing softly the first line only of the Ritual Song in which the Corn speaks. The group of dancers on the left repeat the same line like an echo of the first group. Both groups of dancers now begin to move slowly and in rhythm with the following song toward the figure standing in the center of the space, singing, as they move, the Ritual Song from the beginning:

Native American Ritual Song No. 1

Fourfold deep lie my roots within the land;
Clad in green, bearing fruit, Lo! here I stand!
Pluck and eat, life for life, behold, I give!
Shout with joy, dance and sing with all that live.


Click for larger image - Native American Songs

At the words "Lo! here I stand!" the company of dancers should all be standing in a semi-circle. As the words in the third line, "Behold, I give!" are sung, the draped arms should be slightly extended forward as in a presentation. The fourth line requires some dramatic action, but it should be restrained rather than free. The arms, still draped with the green mantles, should be raised a little as the words "Shout with joy" are sung, and during the singing of the remainder of the line swayed from side to side in rhythm with the song, always with a reserve in the movements, because of the mystery mentioned in the words of the song, that life is maintained by the giving of life. A pause of about two beats should follow this Ritual Song.

As "Ho-o! Ho-o!" the opening of the next song, is given, every dancer should suddenly turn half-way round, give a movement of the head such as would cause the mantle to fall back and leave the head with the corn tassel exposed; the ends of the mantle should be gathered in the hands so that the mantle can wave with the dance as the following song is sung:

Native American Song No. 2

Ho-o! Ho-o!
Dance we singing,
Promise bringing
Of the wealth of summer fair;
Hearts beat lightly,
Skies shine brightly,
Youth and Hope are ev'rywhere.

Refrain: Ho-o! Ho-o! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Click for larger image - Native American Songs

As each "Ho-o!" of the refrain is sung, the dancers should whirl like merry sprites, twine and untwine their green mantles about their forms until the song begins again. Then they should all skip off with springing, rhythmic steps in open Indian file, letting their mantles float and wave about them as they wind in and out over the camp ground carrying "Youth and Hope ev'rywhere." Every time the refrain is reached, the dancers should stop and whirl, then as the song begins again move off in line, dancing as before. When they are ready to stop (that can only be done during the singing and whirling of the refrain), each dancer should whirl from the line and keep up that movement, singing "Ho!" until his or her tent is reached.

 

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