Photo: Joseph Sohm/

Song and Dance Competition

The Navajo Song and Dance Competition that occurs at the annual Navajo Nation Fair and other gatherings has its roots in a dance that is part of the Enemy Way ceremonies. This week-long chant is practiced to remove the influence of outsiders and to remove violence and anger. Originally performed to protect warriors from those they have killed, it is now primarily a healing ceremony—the enemy is a sickness. One of the dances in the ceremony is the only traditional Diné (Navajo) dance in which men and women dance together. Today, the Navajo Song and Dance events based on the couples dance in the Enemy Way are competitions and are separate from ceremonial activities. The women invite the men to the dance area, and arm-in-arm they circle clockwise. The songs usually allude to love and relationships or to honoring. These social dances have, in turn, influenced the ceremonial dance performed during the Enemy Way.