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  • By Joyce McClure/Anthony C. Tareg Jr.

Yap's rarely performed Ghost Dance

As the legend is told, a Yapese man in the village of Akaw, Weloy was inflicted with leprosy. To prevent the spread of the disease, the villagers built a shelter for him high up on a hill outside the village and provided the man with his daily meals. As his disease got worse, the man started hallucinating and thought he was seeing people passing by for a dance practice. One night as he was sleeping he “saw” the same people again. He asked if he could join their dance practice. They agreed and so he practiced with them until he learned the dance as well. When his family came to bring him food he asked them to bring his traditional dancing clothes. His relatives were alarmed. They thought he was losing his grip on reality. But he insisted and finally one of the family members agreed to bring his thuw, hibiscus, lava lava and dancing leis.

That night when the dancing people came he was dressed in his best traditional clothes. They danced through the night and when the sun came up the next morning the sick man noticed all the dancers had disappeared. He was alone, hanging on a branch in the largest banyan tree on island. He began shouting for help. People from his village heard him and came running. They were shocked to find the sick man in his dance clothes hanging in the tree. They were even more shocked to see that the sick man’s sores were gone and he seemed well again. As they helped him down from the tree he began telling the villagers about the dancers who visited him at night. Back in the village, he taught the villagers the dance before he forgot it.

Watch Video Here. This video shows a small portion of the Ghost Dance that was performed after sunset by more than 50 men and boys from the municipality of Weloy on the island of Yap on March 2, 2018, the final night of the 50th anniversary of Yap Day. This video was made by Yap resident Anthony C. Tareg, Jr. the following day when it was performed one more time as the “hanging dance.” When a dance is “hung up” it is being put away and not danced again for some time. The Ghost Dance is rarely performed. An American woman who has been in Yap since 1962 said that this was only the third time she had seen it performed.


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