Cama-i Dance Festival 2018 March 16th ~ 18th at Bethel High School “Cauyat Tupagtelarait Nauviput ~ Drums Awaken Our Roots”

by Linda Curda

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 16th with doors opening at 5pm, and ending Sunday March 18th at 9pm. There will be local crafts, a native food’s 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 “Cauyat Tupagtelarait Nauviput ~ Drums Awaken Our Roots” and reflects our roots in our culture 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, Upallret, Yurartet Dancers, Kuskokwim Campus Dancers, the Kuskokwim Learning Academy, the Mikelnguut Elitnaurviat, Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, Gladys Jung schools and two Bethel High School dance groups – the Warriors and the Wrestler 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 JROTC Rifle Team is also performing again!

The Yukon-Kuskokwim region communities of Chefornak, Kasigluk and Kotlik will also be joining us.

This year’s guests from around the state are the Shageluk Dancers (first time at Cama-i), Polynesian Pacific Bloom Dancers, and the crowd favorite Ossie Kairaiuak’s group, Acilquq.

Other highlights include: Nanda, a remarkable acrobaticalists group; Mike Stevens, world re-known harmonica player and “pied piper” who has shared his passion in the Y-K delta with the Yup’ik youth (who in turn will join him on stage); the Running Thunder Cree Dancers, all the way from Edmonton, Canada; and, the Underground Dance Company-Hip Hop, including a performance of the original song “Any Mountain” by Joanie Hope.

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.

Native 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 from around the Yukon Delta region – these master craft persons bring their work 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.

We dedicate Cama-i 2018 to the elder drummers who have passed and are the “roots” of the continuation of dance in Kasigluk and our “living treasure” Raymond Dutchman of Shageluk – 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 drums that awaken our roots.”

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