12-6 (From the island) Kastom Danis

Better late than never, right?
Lining up for the dance

Back in October, we had First Communion at the church. To counter any complaints I’ve had about the church, they have done an impressive job of incorporating kastom into the church. That is sort of how the Catholic church rolls, but still, I like to see the things that support local kastom here. Too much of it is being swallowed up by Western culture and Western ideals.

After the church-y bits of First Communion, there is kastom dancing. As I’ve commented before, kastom dancing is a lot like follow the leader and a pow wow. Get in a line, follow the person in front of you and stamp your feet a lot. It is fun enough to perform it but the really interesting part is in the rehearsal.
Chicken to the face prevention

Despite how simple that sounds, we did three multi-hour rehearsals. Because the girls are at school during the day and the women are busy in the evenings, we would start the rehearsal a little before dusk. The week leading up to the dance was the week of the full moon. We rehearsed until about 8 every night, which is my bed time and well after my dinner time.

Peace Corps moment: Dancing amid a horde of women in girls by moonlight.
For the most part, the rehearsals were just that. We would dance for awhile, the women would yell back and forth about how to do the dance in language and I would watch the pretty moon. The last night of rehearsals though, the boys decided to “help.” They finished their practice and came and joined ours. Rather than being at all useful, they got in the way, messed up the lines and sang the wrong songs. I scared one of them out of line when I told him if he wanted to dance with the women he needed to dress like a women and tried to tie my lavalava on him like a skirt. He hid from me the rest of the practice.
When my patience was gone and then some, we changed to a different dance. The boys kept adding in an extra shout where there wasn’t supposed to be one. Somehow, that was the issue that made the women chase them away. It was not the disrupting the lines, or distracting people, or flashing flashlights in people’s faces or getting in the way of the dance. The issue was shouting at the wrong moment. I still don’t understand some things here.
They did finally chase the boys off that night but throwing coconuts at them. That also struck me as just a bit odd. They were stoning their own children with coconuts. Whatever.
Dancing into the night

It turns out that the rehearsal with too many boys in the way was actually a good practice for the real deal. When the men finished their dance, they turned around and joined the women’s dance. So, we danced with all of the men messing up our lines, just like in rehearsal.

They explained that the story of the dancing is funnier if the men come inside it so the men come in to make fun of it and make it funnier. Or something. Again, I don’t quite understand. I just made sure to follow the person in front of me and try not to get hit in the head by a wooden chicken.

Cross-posted to our new blog at tegabis.com

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