Re: Fascinatin' Rhythm [Debate] [LONG][PERSONAL INFO]

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 19:57:37 -0500

I have two responses: The Dance, The Drill

On the one hand we have the dance. I lived for a 18 months at Hopi;
specifically at Kykotsmovi (New Oraibi). One kiva was up the hill, another
was down the hill. Throughout the winter there were katsina rehearsals in
the kivas. And people would cluster around the doors to hear them practice
(the little unitiated kids were in bed). These line dances are not
spontaneous, but the choreography (such as it is: 1-2 beat, stamping with
the right foot, shaking a rattle, in the middle of the song repetition,
turning around to face the other way) is based on the song. The "leader,"
the most experienced dancer, is in the middle of the line, while the most
inexperienced, the recently initiated kids, are on the ends. When it is
time to turn, the leader signals with an extra-tempo shake of his rattle.
No sponteneity here.

Second dance: the modern Gourd Dance part of the southern Plains pow-wow,
such as that used by the Comanche Little Ponies, of which I have been an
associate member since 1972. The Gourd Dance is a modern version of the
old time society dances. It has been called "rythmically bobbing in place"
(I don't know by who). The song has two rythmically different parts (hard
to describe) but on the first, a 1-2, the dancers "advance" using the
basic pow-wow toe heel step. At defined parts of the song, it changes to a
straight 1 beat. At this point the dancers stop advancing and "bob" in
place, bobbing off the balls of the feet. It is notably unspectacular, but
when the song is right, there is a definite feeling of communitas with the

On the other hand, we have the drill. Remember, military drill was *NOT*
developed to instill a lack of fear, etc., although that may have been a
side light to it, but was developed to get people to the right place on
the field of battle at the right time. Greeks and Romans used it, but at
times in European military history [no mention of other traditions; see
David Thompson ca 1730 for Blackfeet and Shoshone shieldwalls, volleys,
and charges], drill faded from importance: during the middle ages, knights
trained as individuals [during the late 18th and 19th century, Plains
warriors were individuals, Crazy Horse reintroduced the disciplined "trap"
at the Fetterman fight]. It was not until the rout of the knights by the
massed English bowman at Crecy and Agincourt and by the massed Swiss
pickmen that drill again became important. Its heyday was in the American
Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, when whole army columns could be
wheeled from column to line front in a matter of minutes (we tried that
once, coming back from the re-enactment of the Battle of Monmouth. Late at
night, a convoy of vehicles coming down the JFL tollway in Maryland at
60mph: comes the command on the CB: "From Column form Company Front."
Immediately, the string of vehicles in one lane spreads across the highway
in a solid front. Then back again to column. That was fun.) But the point
is, constant drill allows the quick deployment of troops into position as
was necessary given the limitations of the armaments. Unfortubately, by
the 1860s, and then 1914, the armament technology advanced far beyond the
social organization. At that point, military drill lost its practical
application. As Brig. Jeremy Swinnerton, Colonel of the modern British
Staffordshire Regiment said to us after watching our 18th century
manoeuvers, "Now I know why we teach it." (BTW, he was with us on the