Category Archives: dance

Founding Day 2015

College of Micronesia-FSM Founding Day 2015 on Pohnpei was themed “Improving Learning Through a Cultural Lifestyle.” Ultimately the day is one on which the students have the opportunity to celebrate diversity and the unique cultures of Micronesia.

Kosrae culture since the late 1800s has been interwoven with the culture of the missionary Congregationalist church. One hundred years ago the Baldwin sisters still had their female students wearing Mother Hubbard style dresses. Over the years the church dress has evolved and changed. From left to right are dress styles that range from the 1960s to the present day. One of the changes that is less apparent is the choice of fabrics. Dresses were primarily plain colored cotton, now they are synthetic prints.

The Kosrae float would take first place in the float competition. This year the founding day working group opted not to attempt to judge the dancing and performances, a decision that I consider to be a wise one. Judging the dances and performances is fraught with difficulties and challenges both artistic and cultural. The float rubric was reported to be a simplified version of that used two years ago. This year I opted not to join the founding day working group, I also deflected an inquiry as to whether I wanted to head up the judging.


The Kosraean dress on the left is unusual. The fabric is a tie dyed fabric that would likely have become available in the 1970s. The style of the dress also suggests that the dress is from that era. The dress is evidence of the influence on Kosraean fashion of trends in fabrics  occurring outside of Kosrae.


The Kosraean princess dresses in a modern interpretation of a generic Pacific island look. This too is in part a result of the external influences on the islands of the other islands.


The parade up main street occurred under a mix of sun and clouds. Conditions were hot, humid as usual. Walking on asphalt in bare feet is not recommended. The students are keen to be as traditional as possible, but zoris are still a good idea.


The Yapese chose to carry a cement stone money piece rather than a cardboard replica. This proved to be a taxing undertaking. There was a water stop at center point, but the water stop ran out of cups. The young men were dehydrating, and were thirsty. They asked for water, but could not obtain any. I ran up to the field and found that the water containers in the tents also did not have cups. I did locate bottled water in the building used to stage the lunch and ran three bottles back down route to the Yapese stone money carriers. I was not as concerned about the short haul into the field, but the cumulative effect of overheating that might be a factor by the time they danced four hours later in the day.


Not being on the committee, I had not been around to pass along the recommendation that each float carry a case of bottled water in the event a marcher became dehydrated. Our students are not all physically fit. Some have underlying health issues, some are out of shape, some already have borderline high blood pressure.


Beverly Billy on the lead at center point, at the water stop.


Just before parade start another old dress style joined the parade.


The Kosraean women performed a dance up at the field.


The Kosraean outfits


Pohnpei dance group consisting of a mix of students and community members.


Jacoline Siba Palik.


Chuukese women performing a stick dance variation. The carpet was critically useful in insulating the students from the heat of the rubberized track surface. The program also did not take a formal lunch break, which was also a good decision given the temperatures on the field. While a couple people said to me, “They are islanders, they can take the heat,” I know that heat takes a toll on everyone. No one is immune to the effects of working out on a hot sunny day on the equator.


Outer island Yapese women performing.


Andrea Ewarmai.


The Yap proper dancers danced in the anchor position, last, as they have traditionally done each cultural founding day.

The float rubric used this year was:

Category Description Very strongly








Not at all


Theme How well the float fits the theme of the parade.          
Originality Creativeness and originality of the float.          
Craftsmanship Attention to detail and design, fit and finish of the float.          
Materials Effective use of local materials          
Difficulty Difficulty of construction, level of effort          
Movement Items that move are well used and coordinated          


Color Good and appropriate use of color on float          
Column Sums          

The “costumes” rubric used this year:

Category Description Very strongly








Not at all


Materials Effective use of local materials for traditional costumes          
Visualization Costumes can be seen clearly          
color Colors visible and coordinated          
Authenticity Costume is authentic to the culture          
Column sums          

Pacific island dance judging analysis

Last Saturday I assisted with a judging a preliminary round of a Pacific island dance contest. This Saturday I was one of four judges for the final round. Four judges judges seven groups on five criteria. The criteria were modified from last week.

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

Each criteria was worth ten points. Each group danced two dances, each dance could generate up to 5 of the 10 points in each criteria.

Bring it on girls
Bring it on girls

With four judges, five criteria each worth ten points, in theory there was a maximum of 200 points possible. At the end of the evening the rank order and points for the seven dance groups ranged from 152 to 182 points.

Dancers Sum
Bring it on girls, Pohnlik, Kolonia 182
Sista Sista, Ohmine, Kolonia 175.3
Young Roses, Paliais, Nett 174
Kapinga Pride, Pohn Rakied, Kolonia 162.5
G-Babes, Meitik, Nett 159
Ohnonlong, Wone, Kitti 158
Beauty Cousins, Madolehnihmw 152

Second and third were only separated by 1.5 points, fifth and sixth by one point. As a statistician I have a preference for rubrics that generate more spread. I am all too keenly aware that small differentials are not statistically significant and are not likely to be repeated. That said, a dance contest is not unlike a sprinting race, crossing the line a few hundredths of a second ahead of another runner is the difference between gold and no medal.

Each group had four scores, one from each of the judges. The range from the lowest score to the highest score was smallest for Kapinga Pride and largest for G-babes. G-Babes divided and decorrelated the judges.

Dance group score spread
Dance group score spread

Beauty cousins also saw a large range in scores.

The judges seven scores, one for each dance group, tended to distribute in a range from 35 to 45.

Dance judges score distribution for the seven dance groups
Dance judges score distribution for the seven dance groups

Two judges had rather symmetric distributions about median scores of 40 and 41.5. My median of 45 was high and asymmetric. My low score of 32 was not an outlier, but that was in part due to my large inter-quartile range. One judge had a low outlier and the highest upper whisker at 49.

The dance instructors, coaches, and advisers are most likely to want to know their strengths and weaknesses against the rubric used.  Overall the category “Always smile? Ashamed? No singing with the music?” (termed “Facial” in my analysis) scored the lowest.

Criteria Average
Costume 8.46
Facial 7.82
Movement 8.14
Performance 8.48
Practiced 8.62

One of the judges last week noted that she wanted to see more eye contact. Engage the audience, smile, show confidence, and show that you are enjoying yourself. I noted that one of the dancers seemed a little stiff, reserved, and was not moving as fluidly as I knew she could. I asked her and she said she was nervous tonight. During the free style, free dance at the end of the evening, however, her smile beamed out and she threw herself into competitive dancing with nothing short of gay abandon. All of her grace and fluidity were back.

One group looked over-practiced. They did not smile, just went through the paces. Perfect synch, no life, no zest. Maybe too many hours of practicing the dance over and over. The first place winners danced with confidence, big smiles, lively. They knew their moves, but they also appeared to be having fun with their dance and seemed to relish the spotlight. They were up there to bring it, as their group name suggests, and they were clearly excited at the change to perform in front of their friends and family.

Dance criteria averages by group
Dance criteria averages by group

The G-Babes were judged to have the best costumes with a 9.75 average for the four judges. In the other categories Bring it on girls captured the top averages.

Last week I noted some correlation differences among the three judges.

Correlations Leilani Dana Kiyoshi
Leilani 1
Dana 0.748 1
Kiyoshi 0.735 0.655 1

I correlated well with Leilani, and she correlated moderately well to Kiyoshi. The items that correlated Leilani and I were not those that correlated Dr. Umezu and I, and we saw a lower correlation. This pattern occurred again tonight.

Correlations Dela Cruz Ichikawa Lee Ling Umezu
Dela Cruz 1
Ichikawa 0.19 1
Lee Ling 0.88 −0.10 1
Umezu 0.18 0.58 −0.07 1

Dela Cruz and I were highly correlated, we strongly concurred. Dela Cruz was only weakly correlated, at best, to Ichikawa and Umezu. I was not correlated to Ichikawa and Umezu, with a relationship between our scores that was no better than random. Ichikawa and Umezu were only moderately correlated.

A more detailed study of the correlations by criteria suggests that the four judges concurred on costume and performance, saw some limited agreement on movement, and disagreed on facial and practice criteria. Of interest was that the disagreements did not always occur between the same judges in those criteria where disagreement occurred.

Ultimately the rubric is open to interpretation. There was no training on the rubric nor were any of the judges professionally trained in dance. The goal was to identify groups that could be called upon to dance in dinner shows for visitors and guests. What might impress a tourist is not necessarily the same as what is likely to impress a professional dance judge. I suspect the judges achieved the goal desired despite some issues of internal inconsistency and differing interpretations.

The greatest divergence of scores seemed to be around G-Babes. I was left wondering whether there are cultural differences that may impact how one views the G-Babes.

G-Babes dancers
G-Babes dancers

The G-Babes were the youngest dancers dancing, maybe five or six years old, maybe the eldest is seven or thereabouts. I wondered about the G-Babes myself, but during the free dance sessions they were the first to stream out onto the grass and they danced and laughed with such enthusiasm. They were having the time of their lives. They clearly loved to “shake it” and enjoyed being out there with the “big girls”.

Pacific island free dance
Pacific island free dance

One cannot appreciate their diminutive stature compared to the other dancers until one sees them next to a Sista Sista dancer or a Bring It On Girls dancer as in the above photo.  Whatever differences the judges perceived, the G-Babes were clearly the crowd favorite. Ferocious amounts of cuteness, clearly well practiced dance routines, and having fun.

Sista Sista, Ohmine
Sista Sista, Ohmine

That said, what does the visiting tourist come to see at a dinner dance show? What expectations are there? All of the dances tonight were Polynesian, and only Kapinga Pride is of Polynesian heritage. The true dances of Micronesia are wonderful and awesome, but nothing like what a tourist imagines. Besides, to some extent the Micronesian dances are reserved to their cultures. They are dances with meanings and cultural import. For the Micronesian dancers, the Polynesian dances are both what the tourist expects and what is culturally more comfortable to deliver up to foreigners. That is only my opinion, but if accepted, then groups such as Bring It On Girls and Sista Sista are the dinner show dance groups.

As I noted last week, I know some of the dancers, their families, and where they from on the island. I was impressed with all of the groups. Everyone clearly had gone home and put in a lot of solid practice. The costumes were also stepped up and improved. One could see a lot of work, effort, and pride had gone into each group’s preparation. I was certainly proud of all the dancers tonight.

Kaycie Dikepa and Yolanie Lucky
Kaycie Dikepa and Yolanie Lucky, Kapinga Pride

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.

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

Costumes Culturally, traditionally authentic, add to performance

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

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!”