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Slideshow: The 2024 Cama-i Dance Festival comes to a close

The 2024 Cama-i Dance Festival wrapped up on Sunday (March 17) with another nine hours of dancing, drumming and a colorful qaspeq parade. In total, throughout the weekend, groups spent more than 24 hours on stage, sharing their songs, drumming and dances.

The whole weekend festival reflected this year’s Cama-i theme: “Yuraq Paiciutekaput - Dance is our legacy.” Yuraq groups spanning generations joined visiting groups on stage to learn new dance forms. The weekend was dedicated to two influential Elders who died in the last year – the late Inuguarpak Stanley Anthony of Nightmute and the late Seliksuyar Bob Aloysius of Bethel.

“Up Close & Personal” sessions throughout the weekend gave Cama-i attendees and dancers a chance to learn more about what goes into a wide range of dance styles, from local yuraq groups to hoop dancers to breakdancers.

Throughout the weekend, festival attendees had the chance to sew their own qaspeqs, visit workshops on beading and drummaking, and browse scores of booths at the Native crafts fair. Volunteers served more than 700 meals at the Native Foods Dinner.

The festival is a testament to the power of volunteerism. Organizers spend uncountable hours organizing travel, performer schedules, and sponsorships to bring together the massive celebration of yuraq and other Indigenous and traditional dance.

While Bethel Regional High School will return to its normal operations at the start of a new school week and dance groups fly back home, the spirit of Cama-i Dance Festival follows the hundreds of performers and attendees into the coming year.

Cama-i will be back next year, featuring new and familiar groups, for another whirlwind weekend of community celebration and performance.

Sage Smiley is KYUK's news director.