Nuiqsut's final dance practices before leaving home to go to Kivgiq; the prayers they said, the prayer they missed
I dropped into three dance practices during my five days in Nuiqsut. The first practice and the second practice both began with a prayer - in this case, offered by Bernice Kaigelak, who started the Uyagagvivnmiut* dance group many years ago to give young people something good to do. Some time ago, her daughter, Nannie, told me that prayer always set their practices off in a positive way that carried through the entire session.
She recalled a practice when they did not bother taking the time to pray. It fell apart. Tempers flared. People grew impatient and angry with each other.
The dance practices went very well.
The past week had also been a flurry of sewing and of drum covering. Both activities continued into practice, as Nellie Nukapigak led younger dancers through their motions.
On the third practice I attended - the final practice before the group would go to Barrow for Kivgiq, people wandered in at different times and somehow, the drumming and dance practice got started without a prayer. Just as Nannie had described to me, it wasn't long before things started to fall apart. People grew unhappy. Their dances did not seem to come together right. The good feelings of the two previous nights vanished. Dancers became unhappy and upset with each other.
Then Bernice called a stop to practice. She asked Lillian Lampe to offer a prayer. Lillian did. She prayed that the dancers would not lose the good thing they had going, but would get it back again and have a good practice.
And guess what? They did.
Bernice observes as the dancers practice Kalukaq and calls out a few words of encouragement and correction to young dancers still learning their motions.
In the next room, Kuukpikmiut, led by Laura Kunaknana, here singing, also practiced. Many of Kuukpikmiut's dancers had gone to Barrow for a basketball tournament.
Kuukpikmiut dancers. The boy plays an owl hunter. The girls play owls.
Some of the dancers flew out of Nuiqsut for Barrow yesterday. At least three plane loads flew today. I traveled with those who flew on the second plane today, including Mary Napageak and her 15 week-old daughter, Tatianna. "I'm excited," Mary said. "I love Kivgiq. I wouldn't miss it."
Kivgiq starts tomorrow, Tuesday, at 10:00 AM. The last dance group is scheduled to take the floor at 12:00 midnight. So it is scheduled throughout the five days of Kivgiq, except for the final day, when the benediction and closing song is scheduled for 2:00 AM.
From past experience, I would be willing to bet that each night's performance will go later than scheduled. I will be covering each day from the beginning to end.
After each days events, I must put in at least couple of hours work to manage my day's take. Sometimes, it can be more than a couple. So I don't plan to blog again until after Kivgiq.
*This spelling, Uyagagvivnmiut, is not quite right, but I don't know how to put Iñupiaq characters into this blog.