Ever since the Concert in the Park series began, the Juneau Tlingit Dancers have been part of the summer program.
This year is no different. Twenty-five to 35 dancers are expected to perform at 7 p.m. Friday, June 25, at Marine Park. J. Althea and the Graceland Girls follow at 7:30, and Old Goat, Juneau's lone Norwegian sacrificial death metal band, closes the show at 8 p.m.
"For this Celebration that just passed, we did more rehearsing than we normally do, but our group has been together for a number of years with the same members," Tlingit Dancers member Ed Kunz said. "We know all of our songs, and there have been times when we could give performances on 90-minute notice. Somebody needs a dance group, they call us, and we could do it."
The Juneau Tlingit Dancers formed as the Southeast Dancers in the mid-1970s. Longtime Juneau resident and musician Carol Beery Davis wanted a group of singers and dancers to travel with her to Baltimore for the Third World Congress of Poets, June 13-27, 1976. She asked Kunz' mother, Cecilia Kunz, for help in forming a group.
Twenty-eight dancers and singers made the trip. A third of the group was composed of Hoonah's Mount Fairweather Dancers. While the dancers were on the East Coast, they traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the United States' bicentennial.
When the group returned to Southeast, it changed its name to Juneau Tlingit Dancers.
Five members are left from that first trip, Kunz said.
"I always mention that we have our roots with the ANB," Kunz said. "When I was in high school and the ANB was raising money, they would put on a performance. They would put out a notice that they were going to have a public performance, and anybody who wanted to dance would come forward. That's the same way our group got together."
Friday's performance will include three or four songs. The group traditionally begins with a welcoming song called "Raven Walk," then trades off between Raven and Eagle songs.
Half of the group is made up of Raven Coho. Cecilia Kunz no longer performs with the group but is still the leader and elder. The dancers also include Wooshketaan, Gannaxteidi and Yanyeidi, and in the past, Chickasaw, Zuni and Haida. Percy Martin is the group's songleader, and Micalyne Coronell is the lead drummer.
The group's youngest member is 1, and a third is elders.
"Anybody looking at our group can see that we have a past and a future," Ed Kunz said. "Our children are our future."
The Tlingit Dancers will perform at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center on Saturday, June 26. The group performs at the Alaska State Fair in Haines, up in Teslin and Anchorage, in Sitka, Ketchikan, Metlakatla and almost all the towns and villages in Southeast.
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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