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Friday, August 7, 2009

Dance Fever

We had Tuesday's events planned in advance, and we were looking forward to them. So in the late morning we walked to Harrigan Centennial Hall to see the Russian dancers perform.

This troupe of six ladies performed Russian folk dances in period costume that research suggested would probably have been popular during Sitka's period as New Archangel, the imperial capital of Russia in the new world. They danced to pre-recorded music and some lyrics. Three dances were followed by a short interlude about the Alaska state flag, and then three more dances. The moves involved lots of stomping of heels and leg kicks that would inspire break dancers. A serene and regal circle dance was done completely on their toes.

None of the dancers were professionals, and none were Russian.

After passing a few hours, eating Chinese takeout for lunch, we arrived at the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House for the next dance troupe. This was the native Tlingit dancers.

Perhaps a dozen members of various clans performed native dances in tribal costume that have been passed down through the generations of Sitka's native population. They danced to the beat of their own drums, and chanted lyrics in their native tongue. The dancer who portrayed Raven, and the young woman who led the dances and related their significance to the audience both performed well. The final dance allowed members of the audience to step out and join in mimicking Raven. The dancers ranged in age from a young child to an old woman, all native Tlingit.

While we enjoyed the emotion and genuineness of the tribal dance more than the folk dance, we were impressed that both types conveyed stories. While we are not versed in the art form, we are not aware of any stories being told by the Charleston or the Sprinkler.

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