The Business of Fancydancing refers to Alexie’s first collection, a compendium of five short stories and forty poems; a single, seven-stanza poem within that collection; a screenplay published by Hanging Loose Press in 2003; and a film produced from the screenplay in 2003.
The seven-stanza poem, though without meter or rhyme scheme, contains powerful figurative language which supports the narrative of the poem, describing fancydance aspirants driving all night to compete and hoping to cover their expenses with prize money in order to be able to drive to the next fancydance contest. Alexie uses traditional folk traditions and objects yet renders them in a modern setting as he moves toward metaphorical flourishes of language.
The fancydancers in the poem are characteristic Alexie characters in that they are familiar with their traditional past but live quite clearly and completely in a contemporary American world which is unforgiving and rife with irony and disappointment. Traditional belief systems have been replaced with ersatz mainstream values which are empty in comparison to the coherent worldview that has been disdained. Vernon WildShoe, the only identified fancydancer in the poem, represents the hope and promise of prize money in the future; he is indeed “a credit card we/ Indians get to use.” Ultimately, the fancydance is reduced to a simple means of sustenance, and an unreliable one at that.