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Contemporary Emphases in Northern Eskimo Dance

Thomas F. Johnston
International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Jun., 1991), pp. 47-79
DOI: 10.2307/837035
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/837035
Page Count: 33
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Contemporary Emphases in Northern Eskimo Dance
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Abstract

North Alaskan whaling communities are currently experiencing a remarkable renaissance in traditional dance and its social context, the inter-village inviting-in. Moreover, there has been a broadening of acceptable dance venues, which now include performance at urban Native potlaches, political conventions on Native issues, art festivals, statewide dance exhibitions, and special occasions outside the state. Emphasis has shifted from supernatural connotation to secular, from peacemaking overtures between warring factions to dyadic "twin" communities, from trade and barter to urban shopping expedition for team members, from shaman to lay dance-leader, from traditional gut dancewear to lightweight colored tunics, from the old to the young, and from local performance to urban stage where both Eskimo and Indian dance is exhibited. New factors influencing dance team membership and performance include employment by the tourist airlines, introduction to dance and costume making in the schools, frequent distant travel, the hiring of Cultural Aides for extension courses on dance, the fostering of nativism by the powerful Native Corporations, and the worrying loss of many of the knowledgeable elders upon whom the dance teams once relied. This latter has motivated young adults to seek preservation of their waning cultural heritage. Even the missionaries now support what they once labelled the work of the devil. Inupiat elders make use of mainstream technology to preserve significant dance events such as Eagle-Wolf Dance, recording for posterity on film, videotape, and audiotape. These media are then employed as mementos of deceased and as memorabilia honoring revered ancestors.

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