The students of Quinhagak will hold a place of honor at the Camai festival this weekend. They will be dancing first. The student group has received special permission, from their elders, to Dance. It will be the first time in decades that they are dancing in their traditional way.
Quinhagak is about one hundred miles downriver from Bethel. The village of about 700, sits on the south side of the Kuskokwim Bay on the Qanirtuuq River. The Quinhagak School, is called Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat.
Bethel Council on the Arts and Camai coordinator, Linda Curda.
L. Curda Cut 1 “And for the first time, Quinhagak will be joining us, this is their first dance, as a community they haven’t danced in, someone said, 80 to 100 years, we thrilled to have Quinhagak join us.”
Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat principal, Eric Pederson, invited storyteller Jack Dalton and well-known Yup’ik composer, drummer and singer, Ossie Kairaiuak, to the school last year, for a week of teaching students how to dance the Yup’ik way. Jack Dalton,
Cut 2 “ they were really really excited, and so the kids went to the elders council and asked if they could have a dance group and keep in mind that this is the first time in a hundred years that Quinhagak has had a dance group.” :18
Dalton says the elders insisted that there be no Yup’ik spirituality in the dances, in order to honor the Quinhagak Moravian Church, which Dalton says does not allow any kind of dancing Yup’ik or Western.
Cut 3 “so, the fact that the elders council agreed that there be Yup’ik dancing is pretty big, and because there is the stipulation that there be no spirituality about the dancing, there won’t be any of the first dancing rites or ceremonies to take place, so we’re just doing these as social dances.” :20
Dalton says the students came up with their own stories to tell through dance. They will dance about a huge fall storm a couple of years ago, which forced the kids inside, and where elders taught them how to make dolls out of grass. They will also tell the story about their river, Qanirtuuq, whose main channels are always changing.
17-year old high school student, Alexie Galila, is one of the dancers. He is the Son of Walter and Dorothy Galila.
Cut 4 “we’ve only been practicing for a week for the Camai festival, I feel great, I’m learning the moves and learning the songs and coming through my body nice and smooth.” :15
Galila says he is confident about Kuinerraq’s first dance performance.
Cut 5 “I see big smiles and they’re getting the hang of it, just like the older group, they got the hang of it and then the kids are right behind us following our moves n stuff.” :11
Kuinerraq is scheduled to dance each day of the three day Camai festival. Their first performance will be Friday night at six p-m. Sophie Evan KYUK news.