Saturday, March 01, 2014
More Than Baila ha'
Gi este na mes, siempre meggai para u fambaibaila. Kada un egga' este siha, hahasso na mas ki baila i bidan-niniha. Ayugue i anten i taotao-ta, i kinalemtan lina'la' gi kuttura-ta.
Biba Mes Chamoru!
More than dance: Youths in guma' learn culture and language
March 1, 2014
Years after diving into the cultural and performing arts, Brian "BJ" Terlaje didn't expect he'd be learning a thing or two about his culture, let alone teaching it, passing it on to generations ahead of him and beneath him.
The Chamorro teacher from John F. Kennedy High School also is a fafa'na'gue of Guma' Rasan Acho' Latte, a community dance group in Yona. "Fafa'na'gue" is a title bestowed on the group leaders of guma, or houses, under Pa'a Taotao Tano', the nonprofit cultural preservation and perpetuation organization.
Joining a Chamorro dance group for kids, teens and all ages is more than just a performance experience. History, culture and language also are taught in private groups, those at schools and community organizations, including Terlaje's.
At the urging of a former Yona mayor, Terlaje helped create the dance group 15 years ago, despite being more fluent in the Polynesian styles of dance.
Although he grew up with the Chamorro language at home, teaching a Chamorro cultural dance group became a way he could benefit, by learning more of Guam's culture and perpetuating the language.
Most Chamorro dances are centered on common eras in Guam's history to tell a story.
"We focus a lot on ancient dance, styles and techniques that have been re-established through our connection with other Pacific islanders, and then we have the Spanish-influence dances from when Spain was our government for so long," he says. "This is the era where our manamko' can identify, ... because that's where they recognize the cha-cha or the båtsu. Then you have the contemporary dances -- modern-day Guam, which starts off from the late 1800s until now. "
The songs and chants are typically in Chamorro, with dance moves reinforcing and teaching meaning.
"We tell stories of the creation or legends and we can portray that story by using hand movements and singing songs," Terlaje says. "From my experience, for them it's easy to learn the language through the dance; it's always enforced in the dance form."
Students also play a large role in influencing contemporary dance, introducing different dances to the group, the instructor says.
"It's interesting because the students are learning from me in the ancient and Spanish dances, but when we go through contemporary, that's where the tables kind of turn," Terlaje says. "I'm asking them what the newest dances they know and a lot of it has to do with Western influences."
While he teaches cultural dance to teenagers at John F. Kennedy High School, Terlaje has a very broad age span in his community group. His youngest student is 3, while the oldest is 70.
"It's a good resource for me because I have the older dancers who are used to the jitterbug and dances from their generation and if I have questions about it, they come in handy," he says.
While his group practices for a few hours on the weekends, others may have a different schedule depending on performances and even tours.
Guma' Inetnon Gef Pa'go, led by Vince Reyes, for example, has explored Europe, sharing Guam's stories through dance in major exhibitions and competitions.