Cama-i Dance Festival 2017

March 31 - April 1 & 2 at Bethel High School

Nunaniryuum Nalliini - The Time of Joy is this year's theme for the Cama-i Festival. Above 2 young dancers smile with happiness while performing at last year's festival.

by Linda Curda

“Nunaniryuum Nalliini ~The Time of Joy”

This year’s Cama-i (Yup’ik for a warm welcoming hello) Dance Festival is almost here and the Bethel Council on the Arts is once again proud to be the sponsor of what promises to be the best yet!

The festival starts Friday, March 31st with doors opening at 5pm, and ending Sunday April 2nd at 9pm. There will be local crafts, a native foods dinner, “Heart of the Drum” drumming circle, Miss Cama-i pageant, free dental check ups on Saturday by the YKHC dental program’s “Smile Alaska Style”, and traditional dancers will share their history through dance and music.

The theme for this year’s festival is “Nunaniryuum Nalliini ~The Time of Joy” and reflects our community’s joy during our Cama-i weekend celebration, as we share our Yup’ik traditional drums, songs, and dance with our guests.

There will be local groups: the Bethel Traditional Dancers with Napakiak, Upallret, Yurartet Dancers, Kuskokwim Campus Dancers, the Kuskokwim Learning Academy, Mikelnguut Elitnaurviat, Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, Gladys Jung schools and the Bethel High School Warrior Native Dancers.

We are also pleased that the Delta Illusion Dancers will once again perform – we have watched these young people become an incredible contemporary dance company winning national awards.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim region communities of Alakanuk, Chevak, and Tuluksak will also be joining us. This year’s guests from around the state are the Kingikmiut from Wales, Athabascan Drummer George Holly, Mt. Edgecumbe Dancers, Kuigpagmiut, and the crowd favorite Pamyua.

Other highlights include the Kontagious Mindz of Anchorage who will bring their unique style of hip hop dance, the Sampson Brothers ~ Seneca/Mvskoke Singers and Hoop Dancers and the Matachin Dancers all the way from Texas.

We are excited to have these groups join us and include them in the Up Close & Personal sessions where you can meet with the performers and learn how to do their dances.

There will also be Fur Fashion Show that will model both new and old traditional parkas and regalia.

Artwork, crafts and other handiwork also add to the Cama-i festival spirit. You will find some of the most beautiful beadwork, leather craft, woodworking and sewing in and around the Yukon Delta region; and the masters of these crafts bring their work in for viewing and sale.

From jewelry to yo-yo’s, parkas and masks, their owner’s time, energy and dedication is evident in the craftsmanship that is passed from generation to generation.

Renowned artist Chuna McIntyre, will hold a workshop on Yup’ik traditional regalia and invite folks to make their own patterns.

We dedicate Cama-i 2017 to Panigkaq Joe Phillip and Arnaucuar Barbara Joe of Alakanuk and recognize Raphael and Vivian Jimmy of Mt. Village as our “living treasures” – in remembrance of their contributions in keeping the Yup’ik tradition and dance alive and passing it on to future generations.

We invite you to come celebrate with us as we take the time to say thank you for the impact they have made on our lives through their own life examples.

Mark your calendar and plan on joining us this year, as we celebrate “the drum of our hearts”.

Linda Curda is the Cama-i Dance Festival Co-Coordinator.