Geoff's Notes

Mon, 14 Apr 2003

Waqa (hello) all,
The system here was having trouble two days ago, so I'll have to cover four days here. Friday evening's and Saturday's proceedings at the Alaska Native Heritage Center was pretty amazing. The larger event was a Hawaian Natural Healing Conference put on by Hawaians now living in Alaska. Friday evening included ceremonies of welcome and honoring from both Alakan and Hawaian native cultures. The real treat was seeing native dancing from each culture. This was my first exposure to real hula dancing, and was augmented by sitting next to Teresa Cummings, a native speaker (actually from Tahiti). I was astounded - what a gorgeous interpretive form of dance! Teresa translated each song as it was danced (not always literally, for it becomes apparent that some of the images and language become very suggestive) and I was captivated. Some dances are done just by women, some just by men, some by both. The women's movements are very sensuous, while the men's are graceful but strong. Hands tell much of the story, amplified by by the movement of hips, tilting of head and gestures toward the chest which clearly speak of the heart and love. Then came the Alaskan dance, strangely similar but so different. Again it is accompanied by "song" or vocalization, but not necessarily a text, and again the women's movements are quite seductive, but there the similarity ends, at least in the examples I saw. The men, even in the slow parts of the dance, utter gutteral cries, and their motions are angular and intense. Then when the speed picks up, the men become percussive, feet beating the floor while hands and arms pound the air. It is very impressive, and clearly a workout for the dancers, who in this case are high school kids learning the dances at the ANHC. They are good! Our job was to present our performance one on Friday night and twice Saturday afternoon. Yesterday we had the day off to go on a Grey Whale Tour from Seward, down on the lower Kenai Peninsula. The weather was grey but the only whales we saw were two Humpbacks. We also saw a couple of sea otters and one pod of Dall Porpoises. Despite not seeing more cetaceans, it was for me a great day of being out on the water in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Back in Anchorage today we did three more preformances for elementary school kids, who I must say are the best behaved I've ever seen. Now it's almost time for our farewell dinner, and home on the morrow.

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