Skipnav

Music Instruments & Dance

Dances took place during feasts and drinking sprees. The musical instruments used were flutes and drums. Many of the Amerindian dances imitated animals and birds. One of the South American Arawak dances was the "Humming Bird." It probably took the form of a darting to and fro.

Amerindian Dance
Amerindian Dancing

Dances differed in each tribe or family. In some, the body was moved in a slow and stately manner, with the head held in a grotesque position. Men stood in a long line with their arms linked and the women opposite, likewise.

The lines then advanced and retreated, all the time singing a monotonous chant, with each individual stamping hard upon the ground. Occasionally they break up to drink and then resume the same dance. Sometimes a man and a women would get together and link arms and strut about slowly together, bending their bodies forward and backward, this side and that, very grotesquely. Dances always ended with a loud and discordant uproar, which was a signal for renewed drinking.

One particular tribe danced with each dancer representing a different animal. Each held a stick with an image of their animal on the end. One Amerindian dancer would imitate a wild animal and pounce on another dancer to take him out of the dancing. In the end, he would be alone to finish the dance.

A dance of the Warrau tribe was described by the early missionaries as follows: When the cassava was ripe, the men went to catch crabs and the women made a special kind of cassava cake. When the men returned there was a feast. A young man and woman was placed in a circle separated by an arrow pushed in the ground with a doll stuck on it.

The man locked his fingers together on his stomach and the woman likewise, on her apron. The dance consisted of a few single steps on the spot, different for man and woman. Both then stared at each other in the face, without any movement whatsoever of the mouth and eyes. The slightest sign of laughter disqualified either one. The offender was bundled out of the ring and the crowd shouted, "That man/woman is no good." He/she will never get a wife/husband.