• "We dance because we are Iñupiaq", Iñupiaq dance in Barrow: performance and identity

      Ikuta, Hiroko (2004-05)
      Dance, like other forms of expressive culture, is an important vehicle for creating, maintaining, and expressing identity. Founded in the early 1950s, the Barrow Dancers, with a membership of more than sixty, perform on important occasions in Alaska and outside the state for Native and non-Native audiences. For the Barrow Dancers, song, gesture, and drumming are means of creating and maintaining continuity in a community undergoing rapid social change. Collectively, the troop appears to dance with greater freedom and innovation for local audiences whereas their commoditized performances for outsiders are more formal and repetitive. The Barrow Dancers also perform at Kivgiq (the Messenger Feast) which was revived in 1988 after a more than 70-year lapse. Unlike community, external, and tourist performances, Kivgiq is intended to provide the individual Iñupiat with a more solid collective identity and enhanced ethnic pride. I will argue that Iñupiaq dance, as represented by the Barrow Dancers, embodies Iñupiaq socio-economic empowerment and objectifies its relationship with large-scale American society.