Culture

Art Beat: Bethel prepares for Cama-i

Chuna McIntyre of Eek and San Francisco will be honored at this year's Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel. He'll be featured with his dance group, Nunamta, and also hold workshops in parka-making. McIntyre is an internationally exhibited contemporary artist as well as being adept at a variety of traditional art and craft techniques.

The Cama-i event is one of the biggest cultural happenings in the state. It showcases traditional dance groups from the Yukon-Kuskokwim area, including Bethel's Upallret and Yurartet Dancers, groups from Pilot Station, Toksook Bay, Chevak and Kasigluk, among other villages, and the King Island Traditional Dancers from Nome. As usual, it will also present some decidedly non-traditional acts, the Bethel PRIDE drill team, hip-hop dancers from Artistic Drift, "SupaMan" Christian Parrish, a pop singer of Crow heritage from Montana, Tlingit/Athabaskan aerialist Crystal Kaakeeyaa Worl and Gozde, a troupe of Turkish Romani dancers.

Non-dance events range from one of the biggest Native art and craft sales in Alaska, the Miss Cama-i pageant, free dental checkups and food. A Native feed takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 18, and the Lions will throw a pancake breakfast at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 19.

A production of Anne Hanley's play "The Winter Bear" will be presented in conjunction with the festival at the Bethel Cultural Center on April 15-16, with the actors also presenting theater workshops for the community.

Those wanting to see the event should make travel plans quickly. The venue is always packed for the duration. It will take place at the Bethel High School starting at 5 p.m. Friday, April 17, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 18, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 19. Things will go until at least midnight, except on Sunday when they might wind down a little earlier on account of the school day that follows.

Fine 'Giselle' at Laurence

Speaking of dance, I made it to the first performance of "Giselle" by the Anchorage Ballet at Sydney Laurence Theatre last Friday and left very impressed. There's no mistaking the local corps for the Mariinsky company, but the dancers literally put their best feet forward and can all be proud of themselves. Guest artists Bridgett Zehr and Oliver Speers were excellent in the main roles. I'm still trying to figure out how Zehr moved across the stage on one toe, and Speers' midair spin will stick in my head for a long time. No less memorable was the athleticism of Seth Belliston in the Peasant Pas de Deux and the gracefulness of Ursula Szkolak, who also staged the work, in the role of the ghostly Queen Mytha.

Ordinarily the Laurence Theatre is not a comfortable place to sit; the asymmetry of the hall is enough to distract no matter what's going on, and the fact that half the seats are below stage level would theoretically make it particularly hostile to ballet. However, the smallness of the venue turned out to be a benefit. I could see very clearly the astonishing foot magic taking place every minute -- things one might not notice from the mezzanine of Atwood Hall, for instance. The corps formed lines and did a one-foot flat hop back and forth all the way across the stage with commendable precision.

Above all, this was a case where both the guest artists and local performers were giving it their all, performing at the same level of intensity and commitment they would give an audience in New York, I felt. We see a lot of visiting performers in Alaska whose presentation, excellent though it may be, seems rote, going through the motions until they can get on the plane and get to a place more worthy of their talents.

Thank you, Anchorage Ballet guests, for thinking that we were worthy of your talents.

Jawbone showdown

The United States Universities Debating Championships announced in this column last week are underway at UAA through the weekend. We've learned that the competition, featuring nearly 200 school teams representing the cream of American forensics, was originally scheduled to be hosted by the University of Hawaii. That institution had to pull out and, through fast thinking and paperwork, UAA jumped in and got the call.

All events, spread out between various sites at the UAA campus and the Hotel Captain Cook, are free except the grand finale. Check in the Student Union to find out the current status or follow the action online at usudc2015.com. The final rounds, at Wendy Williamson Auditorium on Monday, April 13, will be a ticketed event and tickets are available at the aforementioned site.

Theater group plans meet-up

Perseverance Theatre director Art Rotch and Cyrano's founder Sandy Harper invite everyone interested in building audiences for live theater to attend what they're calling a "Synergy Summit" at noon Tuesday, April 14, at Cyrano's, 413 D St. The two will report on what they've learned at recent meetings of the national Theatre Communications Group. Beverages will be provided, but you may want to bring your own lunch. The event is free. The organizers ask people planning to attend to RSVP to amy@perseverancetheatre.org.

Tales of the town

The Alaska Humanities Forum is co-sponsoring a pair of free sessions tied into the Anchorage Centennial. Titled "We Came to Stay," they will collect and share stories of how people came to be here. The first event is a multimedia performance involving "dynamic storytelling" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Wendy Williamson Auditorium. The second will be a "story share" session where residents can talk about their own arrival. It takes place 3-5 p.m. Sunday, April 19 on the fourth floor of Loussac Library. Participants are asked to bring a dish. You can find out more and share your own stories online at www.anchorageuntoldstories.com.

Second city stories

The University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Liberal Arts will host a live storytelling event, not necessarily restricted to how-I-got-here memories, titled "Dark Winter Nights." Eight different storytellers will be accompanied by live music. The event has grown over time and will take place in Fairbanks' big Hering Auditorium at Lathrop High School on April 25.

Outdoorsman at the Fireside

Fireside Books will host Alaska's iconic outdoors adventurer, Dick Griffith, and author Kaylene Johnson in a talk about their book, "Canyons and Ice." The talk is free and will start at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 11 at the bookstore, 720 S. Alaska St. in Palmer.

Native sci-fi at Tikahtnu

We note that a film called "Legends from the Sky" opens Friday, April 10, at the Tikahtnu theater. The film was mainly shot on Navajo and Makah land and a multitribal cast that doesn't include any Alaskans. Nonetheless, it could be interesting.

"I've had the idea to make a science-fiction Native thriller for quite some time," said writer/producer Travis Holt Hamilton, who may be best known for the 2012 film "More Than Frybread." "This story gave me the opportunity to get in and work with a different style of filmmaking."

You can check out the film trailer on Youtube.

Mike Dunham

Mike Dunham has been a reporter and editor at the ADN since 1994, mainly writing about culture, arts and Alaska history. He worked in radio for 20 years before switching to print.

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