Monthly Archives: July 2013

Pacific island dance rubrics

In 2011 I was asked to be a judge for the College of Micronesia-FSM Founding Day celebrations. Back in 2009 I had felt that the groups were not sufficiently recognized for their attire – what I would later term costumes for want of a better word. In 2009 the Pohnpei national team, Yapese, and Kosraeans all made strong efforts on attire that I felt went unrecognized. The result was a rubric in 2011 that recognized attire as a component of the scoring. That rubric would be modified and redeployed in 2013 when I was selected to coordinate the judging for Founding Day 2013.

This past weekend I was asked to be a judge at a dance competition which sought to encourage the development of dance troupes of the sort that might perform at a dinner show. I was unclear whether a rubric had been developed, but had heard that the rubric should be simple, thus I dropped the five column, four point rubric for a four column, three point rubric. I was keenly aware that this might narrow the score differences substantially, which could be problematic. The 2013 rubric for Founding Day resulted in some very small separations in scores as noted in a blog on that day’s judging. There was a tie at third place and one group took second by only one point above that tie. The rubric is not resulting in the score separations one might like to see if one is trying to pick “medalists”. And while I am not a huge fan of medals, the students are – they are competing for first place and nothing less.

The scoring would have been three for strongly exhibited, two for moderately, one for weakly exhibited, and zero for not exhibited.

Choreography
Variety: Dance exhibits a variety of dance positions and movements as appropriate to the dance form
Difficulty: Difficulty and continuity of the movement combinations
Timing: Dance movements are synchronized, coordinated, coherent, dancers are on the beat
Posture, position: Dancers posture and positions are aligned, smooth transitions between movement and postures, postures are uniform where appropriate

Attire
Costumes Culturally, traditionally authentic, add to performance

Vocals
Projection, participation: Vocalizations include good projection, can be clearly heard, where the vocalization is a song/chant sung/chanted by all the dancers, everyone is singing/chanting

Presence
Team spirit: Dancers show confidence, stamina, energy, stage presence, the dance is impressive and entertaining

Once I arrived at the venue, South Park Hotel, I learned that Kenny Omura had developed a rubric we would be using. I felt a sense of relief that I would not have to put my narrowed scale to a test. The rubric was simpler and the instructions were to deduct points against a ten point scale for five metrics. The score sheets were in both English and Japanese.

1. Performance as a group
2. Movement. (Late movement, Turn the other way, keep looking at the partner, etc.)
3. Music choice (different from Tevaka, Fenua, etc.)
4. Always smile? Ashamed? No singing with the music?
5. Well practice?
Chewing gum and chewing betelnut and spitting: 10 point deduction.

I clarified that singing with the music was a deduction, the dancers were to dance to the music, not lip synch nor sing. The judges were also instructed to ignore for now the choice of music. The judges, however, still scored this metric. I was guided by the advice that the production should be appropriate to Pacific Island dinner show dancing.

Yolanie Lucky
Kapinga pride dancer

Although I knew some of the dancers, I had connections of one sort or another to all of the groups. Being a professor on a small island means always means dealing with evaluating – in one form or another – those who you know and care about.

Many of the groups, and all of the all male groups, missed the point that the dance was to be appropriate to an evening dinner dance show that show cases Pacific island dance forms. The male groups invariably chose gangsta rap or gangsta influenced hip hop, rather poorly mimicking Jabberwocky or the latest video that they had seen. Not a single male dance group attempted a Pacific island dance – and there are some excellent ones out there. The Samoan and Maori men all have fantastic dances that celebrate strength, virility, and the protecting role of the male in the family.

With little guidance on scoring, the judges were left to their own devices in terms of deciding how to score. None of the judges intentionally looked at the other judges scoring choices, nor did the judges see the other judge’s scoring choices until all ten groups had danced. Thus I was interested in what correlations, if any, might exist among the three judges. One judge was from Pohnpei, one from Japan, and myself from the United States.¬†Although we were operating without any particular training or referencing, the correlations suggest that the judges were reasonably well correlated. We were able to use the rubric in a manner wherein our scores generally agreed.

Leilani Dana Kiyoshi Sum
1 Gangsta meitik 29 30 23 82
2 Gangsta 2nd group 24 20 21 65
3 Bring it on girls Pohnlik 37 43 46 126
4 G-Babes Meitik 35 42 25 102
5 Gangsta (5 boys) 28 27 25 80
6 Young roses Paliais 35 43 35 113
7 Sista sista Ohmine 34 38 33 105
8 Beauty Cousins Madolehnihmw 34 37 30 101
9 Kapinga pride 30 44 29 103
10 Onohnlong Wone 28 41 30 99
Young roses
Young roses

In terms of basic statistics, on average I made the fewest deductions while Kiyoshi made the most deductions. My coefficient of variation, however, was just under that of Kiyoshi, so we both scored across a relative broad range. Leilani scored in a narrower range with an average between Kiyoshi and I. The upshot is that while our standards might have been slightly different, the differences were not substantial nor significant.

Statistic Leilani Dana Kiyoshi
Mean 31.4 36.5 29.7
Median 32 39.5 29.5
Mode 35 43 25
Standard Deviation 4.17 8.15 7.23
Coefficient of variation 0.13 0.22 0.24
Range 13 24 25
Minimum 24 20 21
Maximum 37 44 46

The scoring sheet used by Kenny gives me ideas on how to potentially evolve the rubric in use for Founding Day and increase the spread. Maybe a ten point per category maximum score would improve the spread. Mathematically, the transformation is likely to be linear and not have any actual mathematical meaning, but the increased numeric spread would make a close finish look less controversial, make the margin look bigger.

On a personal note, knowing the judges and your music is probably useful. One group attempted to do a Tahitian style dance to Azonto music from Ghana. In that attempt they missed the song’s movement cues and the Azonto style, in fact, the result was an odd clash because Azonto does not have the same beat structures as Tahitian/Polynesian dance styles. As someone who lived in Ghana for two years I found I had to fight back a desire to mark down the dancers for not understanding the meanings and movements of Azonto. Dance to any music you want, but know that genre, know the style, know the meanings, know the motions. Know that culture and be able to connect to the music, make sure the music fits who you are and what you are about. I suspect that is the problem I have with some of the gangsta rap – a music and a musical culture completely disconnected from the life experience of a Micronesian on Pohnpei. The boys in the hood would simply pop a cap in you if you walked down their street. Even if your pants are falling off, you are not a gangsta nor does your society want you to be one.

The top seven groups advanced to the final where five judges will be deployed. I asked that costumes be included in the scoring, Leilani asked that eye contact be added to the score sheet. Although eye contact is both a cultural variable and may or may not be a requirement of some dance forms (Yapese stick dances for example), in an evening dinner dance setting there is a Fantasy Island expectation of “Smiles, everyone, smiles!”

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Evening run

Evening runs begin on the road in front of your door.

Dolihner looking East
Dolihner looking East

Tonight I set aside my three tennis balls and opted to carry a digital camera along for the journey.

Walkway between the upper and lower Pohnpei campus
Walkway between the upper and lower Pohnpei campus

This past week I visited a new exercise center on the island, the first place on the island to offer treadmills, steppers, ellipticals, digitally monitored rowers, and stationary bikes. I treadmilled in front of a mirror, which proved educational.

Bank of Guam
Bank of Guam

When I first ran in 1978 I was an overpronator who destroyed shoes by rolling over the instep. I eventually discovered motion control and motion control plus shoes. By the 1990s I found I could also wear stability shoes. A decade ago I bought my last pair of motion control shoes and have run in stability shoes ever since.  The mirror in front of me suggested that I landed very vertically, with my feet landing squarely under me and the bottom of my feet level with the ground. The mirror suggested that my form had changed.

Movie Theater
Movie Theater

The movie theater was not here when I came to Pohnpei 21 years ago. The theater has made a real difference for my children and I – my kids sometimes even get to see an opening night movie such as Pacific Rim. Without waiting in a line. Showed up five minutes before the movie on July 12 and still had prime seats. In fact, the theater was not full. And, aside from a few selected Imax theaters that opened on the 11th, we were first on the planet at GMT +11 to see Pacific Rim. Not that the film is particularly worthy outside of its genre, but that we do sometimes get to enjoy our GMT +11 position on the planet.

Road in front of the hospitals
Road in front of the hospitals

I like running past the hospitals. As I pass the Genesis hospital annex I can see runners pounding away on their treadmill, some staring into the mirror, others watching the television on the wall. Watching television while running was addictive for this joggler. Get my dose of CNN plus a run in at the same time. Still, running in a room just doesn’t do for me what running on the road does for me. And orienting on the treadmill takes more attention that orienting on the road. On the road one can look down range and mentally set up where one’s feet will be. Treadmills do not offer those cues. And set six inches from a wall with windows up on the second floor, well just plain disorienting for the mind. Running at six miles per hour but the wall never gets closer – the mind actually boggles.

Kamar junction at the Dausokele bridge
Kamar junction at the Dausokele bridge

The bridge and the river, or more properly estuary, is always an important place for me. I often run to the river, that is my usual evening run. And once a birth year cycle I run my age in minutes to the river and back. I used to only try to run to the river and back in my age minutes. A couple weeks ago I joggled to the river and back in 49 minutes, four minutes under my age. That felt good.

The only rule I follow is that I get to run via the shortest possible path – OSP. Open Shortest Path. Any and all shortcuts can be taken. And there really aren’t any. There is only one road, but the route I do use is through Pohnpei campus and not around on the main circumferential road, shaving off about 100 meters. The distance to the river is 3.65 kilometers for a 7.2 kilometer round trip.

The run to the river is also a run past the hospitals and whenever a friend is in a hospital, the run reminds me of them. Sometimes I have gone out the door only because someone I know is in the hospital. So I ran when Heinrick Palik was in hospital, I ran when Shrue was in with our new born son, I ran when Harvey Segal was in the hospital, I ran when Angela Jefben was in the hospital. I remember those runs.

Shadow self-portrait at Green Bay
Shadow self-portrait at Green Bay

Green Bay is a sometimes sakau market. On a sunny evening the market calls, unless I am on my feet running. When I am running I do want to be at sakau. But when I am not running and the suns sets golden in the west, then I want to be at sakau.

The junction with Nantipw, Lewetik, and Meitipw road
The junction with Nantipw, Lewetik, and Meitipw road

Shrue and I moved up to a home on this road in 1998. This would be my son’s first home, and would mark my longest regular runs as I would run home from Palikir to Nantipw twice a week. The runs were on the order of fourteen or fifteen kilometers with my best time being 1:15:15 on 11 May 2000. That Thursday Shrue was in the hospital with my newborn son. I have never before nor since run that fast over that distance, nor have I ever felt the flow I felt that day as I ran.

Sometimes there are some things that occur only once in your lifetime, and that is OK. There is no need to mourn the failure of a re-occurrence. Some people push to get that feeling again. Climb a higher mountain. Run a tougher race. Looking to recapture that feeling, that sense of ability, again. Once is enough, there is a lifetime to enjoy the memory.

Paulino's at Palipowe junction
Paulino’s at Palipowe junction

I spent Thursday scanning old photos and uploading them to social media. Three of the old images were of the sakau market that once stood here. Young looking colleagues with smooth, bright skin. Now there is an empty sense of abandonment at Paulino’s. Every morning leaves are swept up at homes in Pohnpei. That the leaves are unswept is a sign of an empty home. No sweepers are here. The sweeping is usually done by young single females in the family. Thus the clothes in the semi-nahs indicate that whomever does still inhabit this place does not have sweepers. These are islands in which the sweepers head off-island to seek work and educational opportunities. The extended family is not extended anymore. Elders are increasingly finding themselves minus their children and their children’s children – the core to the leaf sweeping force.

Gallen family pick-up truck
Gallen family pick-up truck

Twenty-one years of running on an island of 35,000 souls means that half the cars that pass me, know me. Maybe more, maybe all know me and I just do not realize it. This truck contains a colleague, former students, current students, and future students of mine – should I happen to live long enough. While I may tend to keep to myself, I am never socially disconnected. Not here.

Dogs
Dogs

Dogs are a part of running on Pohnpei. For the most part dogs along my regular routes ignore me. Occasionally even a normally sedate dog gets excited – dogs have their bad moods too. I have been bitten three times on Pohnpei, a couple times on Kosrae, although one of the Pohnpei bites was not while running. Dogs are off leash, untrained, and unpredictable. Dogs are difficult for those who come from western portions of the globe and a reminder that Micronesia is Micronesia, not Kansas. A dog that bites may wind up in the uhm.

Ros
Ros

Running outside of a walled room means meeting people who have meaning in one’s life. I have known Ros for more than a decade, and like many who I know here, I know her life at a level of detail that I doubt I would were I living outside of the world of a Pacific island. Living here one either learns that life does not proceed in straight lines along planned paths, or one leaves, frustrated. Having a goal in life works for some, but may be rather overrated.

Dausokele bridge
Dausokele bridge

Sometimes I race the sun to the bridge – run with just enough time to possibly beat sunset at the bridge. Racing the impending loss of the sunshine on the bridge. A metaphorical run. Life as a run that must also eventually end, a time when the sunshine no longer hits the deck of the bridge, when darkness settles in. Evening runners start in the sun and run against the setting of the sun. Maybe morning runners are more optimistic – beginning in the near darkness and running as the sun rises. A new beginning with each run. For the evening runner, each run is an ending in fading light.

Dausokele
Dausokele

The view from the bridge is always enchanting – mangroves and distant forested ridgelines. Yet the appearance of a place of ancient and dense forests is deceiving. Behind that veil of green, really only a veneer, is one of the mostly densely populated valleys on Pohnpei. Hundreds of people in an extended forest of interlocking family trees live in the basin around Dausokele. Appearances are deceiving and allow Pohnpei to often be whatever a short term visitor decides Pohnpei to be.

Nett School
Nett School

A new school building, arguably overbuilt, sits next to an older structure at Nett school. A single elementary school serving a municipality with a population of 6000 some residents. The population pyramid would suggest that maybe a third are school aged, maybe more. I am now headed back into town on my run, heading back towards the hospitals.

The mother church
The mother church

Down in town I move past the church the Protestants call “the mother church”. While elsewhere on the planet the Catholic church predates the Protestant church, here in Pohnpei and over on Kosrae the Protestant church predates the Catholic church. The Protestants are the older church. On Pohnpei by about 50 years, on Kosrae by over a hundred years. Church and the social world of the church are central to life here, but there is still room for spirits in the corners of the room.

Along the waterfront
Along the waterfront

What one sees depends on one’s perspective. The green and white building is one of only two buildings to survive World War II on the island. That green and while building marks the corner of the public market on Pohnpei. What I see are the dogs on the right. Runners have to pay attention to dogs. They become excited and join in the run. Or the chase.

Sunset at the causeway
Sunset at the causeway

With nine kilometers behind me, the sun sinks behind Sokeh’s ridge. The causeway is active on a Friday night, every table occupied by sakau drinkers settling in for an evening of breezes off the water.

The port end of Deketik
The port end of Deketik

Change usually takes time on Pohnpei, but not with respect to the weather and the onset of darkness. When the sun sets, the lights go out on Pohnpei. Equatorial sunset leads to instant lights-off darkness. This evening rain swept in across the causeway chasing away the sakau swigging crowds.

A torrential down pour drenches the causeway as I head southbound in the gloom towards the main island. The causeway offers no protection from the wind driven rain. The rain falls faster than the water can drain away, and the causeway is covered with a sheet of flowing water. Both my gear and I are waterproof, road running is not cancelled by darkness nor rain. Road running always seems to me to be a unique sport in this respect. The scenery always changes, there are opportunities to interact with friends, and the weather does whatever the weather will. The run goes on. Volleyball players cannot stop and be social in the middle of a set. Nor can tennis players. Swimmers do not get to talk to those watching the swimming. And rain can delay or cancel softball games, track events. Darkness can end a day of golf. Road running is social and virtually unstoppable. Spear lightning or typhoons are required to shut down a road runner. Darkness is problematic, but not run ending.

Main street
Main street

Just a short kilometer later full on darkness has settled over Kolonia. Even main street is not well lit by street lamps, there is a basic darkness to roads on Pohnpei at night. Survival is up to the pedestrian. Runners come up fast on a car, drivers here do not expect a runner, so a runner has to be the alert one, anticipate the unexpected.

Sky dark
Sky dark

A mere 100 meters later and the sky is dark. First comes road darkness. Then sky darkness. In a matter of minutes. There is no lingering dusk as one might experience at 40 degrees north or south latitude.

Night dog
Night dog

The run would finally end with my arrival in Dolihner, 15.3 kilometers, one hour and forty-nine minutes after I stepped out onto the road in front of the house. All is cloaked in darkness, the brief journey over. Later in the evening the power company would again cut power to the whole island, plunging what few places have light into Pacific darkness. My son would wander around the house decrying whomever had moved his flashlight. I viewed the loss of power as an opportunity to go to sleep after a moderately long tropical run.