Celebrating Cama'i 2017: Footage of Maryann Sundown and Agnes Aguchak

Apr 1, 2017

Agnes Aguchak and Maryann Sundown were teasing cousins from Scammon Bay, and delighted audiences with their comedic dance performances. Aguchak passed away in 2009 and Sundown in 2011.
Credit KYUK

"The original meaning (of dance) is to entertain people. You have to make your teasing cousins laugh," says Ayaprun Loddie Jones.

Jones is the daughter of the late Maryann Sundown of Scammon Bay. In her lifetime, Sundown may have been the most famous dancer in Alaska, and a true celebrity at the annual Cama'i Dance Festival. 

KYUK recently unearthed footage of Sundown dancing with her teasing cousin, the late Agnes Aguchak, also of Scammon Bay. They made each other laugh, and that was just the beginning.


As the drums pulse, Aguchak and Sundown's expressive motions keep time...and laughter floods the audio track from everywhere. Clearly, both dancers are purists when it comes to the original meaning of the dance. 


"My mom used to say when there are too many dancers on the stage it’s not fun. Yuraq-ing (dancing) is supposed to be entertaining, where you see two or three comedians really doing their act together," says Jones.

Jones and her sister Agnes Naneng both live in Bethel and are active dancers and dance instructors. Jones leads the dancers at Bethel's Yup'ik immersion school, Ayaprun Elitnaurvik. Naneng teaches dance at Bethel Regional High School and performs with the Upallret dance group.  

"The reason why I started dancing was watching my mom dance... I thought to myself, 'Why haven’t I learned to dance? When she’s gone who is going to learn and carry on what she loved to do?' That’s when I decided, 'I’m going to learn how to dance,'" Naneng says.

Both will be on stage at the Cama'i Festival this weekend as the tradition lives on.