Dancing from the Heart

Dancing from the Heart: Movement, Gender, and Sociality in the Cook Islands

KALISSA ALEXEYEFF
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqvtb
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    Dancing from the Heart
    Book Description:

    Dancing from the Heart is the first study of gender, globalization, and expressive culture in the Cook Islands. It demonstrates how dance in particular plays a key role in articulating the overlapping local, regional, and transnational agendas of Cook Islanders. Kalissa Alexeyeff reconfigures conventional views of globalization’s impact on indigenous communities, moving beyond diagnoses of cultural erosion and contamination to a grounded exploration of creative agency and vital cultural production. Central to the study is a rich and textured ethnographic account of contemporary Cook Islands dance practice. Based on fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and archival research, it offers an engrossing analysis of how Cook Islands social life is generated through expressive practices. Dance is explored in a variety of settings, including beauty pageants, tourist venues, nightclubs and community celebrations at home and within Cook Islands communities abroad. Contemporary Cook Islands dance practices are also shaped by competing ideas about the past. Debates about precolonial traditions, missionization, and colonialism pervade discussions about dance and expressive culture. Alexeyeff shows how the politics of tradition reflect the competing moral, political, personal, and economic practices of postcolonial Cook Islanders. Throughout the work the stories and voices of individuals are brought to the fore. Their views are juxtaposed with scholarship on tradition, modernity, and social dynamics. Engaging and accessible, Dancing from the Heart illuminates specific and intimate aspects of Cook Islands social life while, at the same time, addressing fundamental questions within anthropology and indigenous, performance, and postcolonial studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6212-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. PROLOGUE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    Mamia sat at the kitchen table with her ukulele. I sat opposite her with my laptop. It was around ten in the evening on a cool night during the Rarotongan winter. Mamia was trying to compose a song; her eldest sister Rose’s fiftieth birthday was coming up in a few months, and Mamia wanted to write a song for the occasion. I was trying to record field notes. Neither of us was particularly absorbed in our activities—we talked more than worked. Our conversation was interspersed with Mamia’s strumming occasional chords and singing fragments of melodies. At one point, Mamia...

  6. ON THE BEACH: AN INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-28)

    This book is about contemporary Cook Islands dancing and, more generally, about expressive culture.¹ It explores the variety of ways in which expressive practices generate aspects of Cook Islands social life. Dancing, I suggest, plays a key role in articulating the aesthetic, moral, political, and economic agendas of postcolonial Cook Islanders. The mediational power of expressive practices serves to engage local identities with broader global processes. One crucial aspect of this dialogue is that it is fundamentally gendered. Ideas about Cook Islands femininity and female dance practices are powerful conduits through which notions of Cook Islands locality, modernity, and globalization...

  7. chapter one ‘ARE KARIOI, HOUSES OF ENTERTAINMENT: DANCE IN HISTORY
    (pp. 29-56)

    In 1992 the sixth Festival of Pacific Arts was held on Rarotonga.¹ In order to host this event, which included participants from the majority of the Pacific Island states, the Cook Islands government built a large complex, Te Puna Kōrero—also known as the Sir Geoffrey Henry National Culture Centre, named in honor of the prime minister. The $12 million complex houses the National Library, the National Museum, and the Ministry of Cultural Development.² The centerpiece is a 2,300-seat auditorium called the ‘Are Karioi Nui (Big House of Entertainment). This name comes from legends about‘are karioi(houses of entertainment...

  8. chapter two THE POLITICS OF CONTEMPORARY DANCE
    (pp. 57-83)

    The epigraph text above voices some of the concerns that are present in discussions of contemporary Cook Islands dance: the impact of commercialization on culture; issues of cultural loss and ownership; and the importance of recovering traditional modes of cultural expression. The ways in which traditions and culture are promoted through the tourist industry are particularly the subject of much debate, especially on Rarotonga, where most of the industry is based. The debate is primarily divided along generational lines: younger Rarotongans (ages twenty to forty) who are involved in the performing arts generally view tourism as one way of reviving...

  9. chapter three SHY GIRLS AND SHOW-OFFS: DANCING LOCAL VALUES
    (pp. 84-106)

    Both of the epigraphs above refer to a young woman, Mary (a pseudonym), whom many on Rarotonga considered to be a role model for other young women. The first statement was made by a middle-aged male drummer as we were watching a solo by Mary during a hotel dance performance. His observations referred, in a slightly prurient way, to her physical beauty but went beyond that to indicate her importance to “us,” meaning both the dance group and the Cook Islands as a whole. His remarks echoed academic arguments about the role of femininity in nationalist discourse (Yano 2006; Yuval-Davies...

  10. chapter four PARAMOUNT QUEENS: FEMININITY AND GLOBAL/LOCAL DISSONANCE
    (pp. 107-124)

    The 1998 Drag Queen Competition that Marcia referred to during the Miss Cook Islands beauty pageant was held at TJ’s nightclub on a Wednesday night. The venue was full an hour before the show was to begin. The composition of the audience suggested that this was a popular and mainstream event that attracted people who normally do not go out to nightclubs. Alongside young people who regularly went out were friends and family of the contestants and older people who went to nightclubs only for special events. There were no tourists. An L-shaped catwalk draped with leafy foliage had been...

  11. chapter five OUTING: DANCING AFTER DARK
    (pp. 125-146)

    Morning teatime at the Ministry of Cultural Development provided an opportunity for the staff to snack and chat. The most interesting morning tea was generally on Monday because people caught up on the news and gossip of the weekend, in particular what had occurred while “outing,” the term used to describe going to nightclubs, discos, and bars. One Monday morning early in my fieldwork, four younger staff members (all in their twenties) and I were sitting outside, eating bread and drinking tea under the building’s eaves. About thirty meters in front of us was the Tupapa Centre, the hall of...

  12. chapter six OVER THE REEF: DANCE IN A TIME OF TRANSITION
    (pp. 147-160)

    Three-quarters of the total Cook Islands population now live abroad, principally in New Zealand and Australia. Although there has been a steady stream of emigration since the 1950s, over half the working population lost their jobs after economic reforms were introduced in 1996, and as a consequence out-migration increased dramatically. When I asked people about their occupations during this post-1996 period, many responded with ironic humor, “I am in transition” referring both to their unemployment and to the Transition Project, which was funded by the New Zealand Overseas Development Assistance (NZODA, now New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency, or...

  13. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 161-164)

    One day in conversation with Tepoave Raitia, a composer and choreographer who worked at the Ministry of Cultural Development, he told me about the musical he had written and directed calledKatikatia: The Legend in Music.It is based on a legend about an old woman, Katikatia, who lives in the mountains on Rarotonga. If children strayed from their villages she would lure them into her cave and kill them. One day Ema, the favorite niece of Makeaariki,went missing. Makea’s warriors found Ema dead in Katikatia’s cave. They brought the body back for Makea and his wife to...

  14. APPENDIX COOK ISLANDS DANCE GENRES
    (pp. 165-168)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 169-182)
  16. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 183-184)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 185-200)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 201-206)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)