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Feet Like Bullets

Chaz Baker, Kyiyo Fancy Dance Champion

Photographed by Sara Diggins, written by Michael Merlo

Chaz Baker is a champion. He's 5 years younger than the men he competes against, he's traveled the western side of the continent competing. He payed for his first year of college with his winnings. But for Chaz, its not about winning. Its about connecting with his identity as a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. And its about the movement. 

Chaz is a fancy dancer. Fancy dancing is the most intense and athletically challenging categories of native dance. As the dancer moves through challenging tricks and motions, his regalia moves as well, creating a dance that mixes elegance and athleticism. Like all other athletes, Chaz trains hard to be as good as he is. He has a calisthenics routine he practices at the base of Mount Sentinel every afternoon and spends hours listening to Pow-Wow music in the car with his brother. 

One summer, Chaz danced on the grass in his backyard until it turned to dirt. 

This year, Chaz won the annual University of Montana Kyiyo Pow-Wow Fancy Dance. Click the gallery to the right for more about Chaz, or ready the full story, written by Michael Merlo, through the link below. 

Chaz’s high energy of dance is matched by the tenacity of his moves. He does cartwheels and the splits. He has different ways of making his bustles move, by wiggling his shoulders and kicking his leg high at the beginning of the song. His feet move like bullets, almost too fast to see.

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