gather ’round the circle, kids.

6 February 2011 § Leave a comment

Everyone in the bar sat down on the floor. They had kneeled first, not sure what they were committing to, into that position that feels alright for the moment but you know is going to become uncomfortable in just a minute, with strained knees and ankles and who or what is that I’m leaning against? …yep, time to move now.

One song in and the crowd is sitting indian-style, legs crossed with their cocktails and humbled 20/30-something attitudes – they were all in second grade again, and they didn’t mind a bit. It was okay to touch other people this time around. The traditional Yu’pik dances attracted every face in the room, even that kind-of-hot-but-loud-obnoxious blond who never seemed to shut up. No one talked but the douchebags near the bar holding their tall cans of Pabst and crooked grins.

The dancer front and center was a professional performer and part-time clown. If Yu’pik dances with the paper drums and paws of feathers were choreographed for the nightclub, if they were made to be sexy, this guy was the Justin Timberlake of Southwestern Alaskan Native culture. A woman with grace danced next to him, stage left, and her style was settled when his was suddenly spastic, she moved like the tide when his waves were ridiculous. The incongruity, the tense simplicity of the songs, building up to the climax of a great adventure of live or die in the great white North.

The crowd of collegiate children sipped their beers like apple juice and listened to the stories of of the Natives under disco balls and without impatience, without that obligatory feeling to cheer for the retarded kid, no, here they cheer for real. Here, it is a deep and profound respect for the cultures we share our land with. Or cheap entertainment at the hippest spot of the night.

Whatever the case, the consciousness of the bar, wherever it might have been that night, rose a little for a few minutes when cultures transcended politics and fictional borders and racism and those things we too often attach to our neighbors. A part of the old world stepped into this one we’ve created here and they both seemed to thrive in appreciation of the other. And music is the universal language from here on out.

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