This past weekend, I had the honor and pleasure to celebrate three new Eagle Scouts in my Troop at a Court of Honor that we held for them this past Saturday. Since the boys in question were all associated with Order of the Arrow, they have the right to have a special “Four Winds” ceremony performed for the. Since I’m associated with the Dance Team that our O.A. Lodge hosts (my primary role in O.A. is “Dance Team Advisor”), I figured it would make sense to present our Dance Team’s version of this presentation.
Our Dance Team ceremony is pretty well known and regarded. We have a recorded narrative that mixes in spoken word and Native American Pow Wow songs, as well as ambient background music. We mix in multiple dance styles, representing both female and male dancers and dance styles (typically Jingle Dress, Fancy Shawl, Fancy Dance, and Grass Dance). The outfits that we have are elaborate, and they take a lot of time to put together, put on and take off. The preparation time can often take 45 to 60 minutes for a presentation that rarely last longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. Thus, my goal has been to engineer the process so that the materials can be put together quickly, taken apart quickly, and most important, put on and taken off quickly. To this end, I modified all of the clothing items I could to use side clip fasteners, and make them as adjustable as possible. I cut out the back of an old school backpack and attached it to the top cape of the dance outfit so that the neck bustle could be more easily put on and taken off. To make the fancy dance outfit even easier, I stitched the “angoras” (lower leg decorations that are made from sheep’s hair) and the dance bells together into one piece, with the side clips and webbing to make them super easy to take on and off. I tested them on me, and on another analog (a younger scout) and figured it would work well for all concerned.
I’m guessing some of you already know where this is going, don’t you ;)?
The day of the performance, we get everyone together, and I assemble everything and show them how to get into and out of the gear. Everything works flawlessly… except for one thing. The angoras for the fancy dance outfit and the wrap sleeve, side-ring clips, and webbing, even when closed down to the absolute tightest level, were still loose on the scout doing the dance. I had figured I’d covered the skinniest possible kid I could think of. Truth be told, no i hadn’t, and here he was, right in front of me, wondering what to do. I told him to grab a pair of bandannas and tie them below the bells to add some extra support and pressure. When he went out to dance, even with the added support of the bandanna, one of the set of bells and angoras started sliding down his leg. At this point he looked at me with a mix of bewilderment and horror… “what do I do now?!” The only answer I could telegraph to him was “keep going”. He saw that stopping to adjust was not an option, so he adapted his steps to minimize the view of the drooping bells, and after his performance was finished, he went to the area where he was to “stand as sentry” and stood still while the rest of the performers did their parts.
Afterwards, many of the attendees walked up to the dancer and congratulated him on an excellent performance. Not a one of them mentioned the “mishap”, though his Mom later pointed out that he looked to be struggling, but adapted effectively under the situation. I learned that as we get closer to the end of a project or a hard deadline, we sometimes make totally innocent lapses in our thinking, and make choices that seem to be perfectly rational, but miss something important. Sometimes these events can be embarrassing, but at the same time, I told the boy in question “sure, the bells drooped, and you couldn’t put on a “perfect” performance. On the other hand, of all the boys in the Troop and the Lodge that could have been out there, you were the one who actually suited up to dance. Most people will not remember that his bells drooped. They will remember that he stepped up and did something hard, something intricate, and did a pretty darned good job.
We had a quick “retrospective” on the event, and we all talked about what we could do to make it work better the next time. I got some valuable feedback on the attachment designs I used, and how to modify them to make them even more effective and with a broader range for use. Most of all, though, I was reminded that, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much ground you cover, there’s always something you didn’t consider.