Houses and Dances

According to the Official Micronesia Travel Guide, Yap has two villages that are worth a visit. They are the Balabat Villager and the Okau Village. The villages of Yap are still used as meeting houses by the elders to discuss community matters.

Each village is divided into family groups and a large family group has three types of houses.  The community house is the largest, it is a wooden structure with a steepthatched roof and open sides, where everyone gets together to dance sing and count their stone money. Then the nuclear families each have a sleeping house which of course is where the family sleeps. The third is the men’s club house where community decisions are made.

The community houses are very important.  Usually, there is one community house for men and another one for women. The men’s houses, called faluw, are typically situated near the water. The functions of men’s and women’s houses have changed, but taboos still apply. Always ask permission before approaching or taking pictures.

Dances happen in the community houses on weekends and since Yapese people are very private, in order for you to observe a traditional dance, you should arrange a visit to one of the community houses through one of the village elders.

Elders teach the village youth stories and how to communicate them through dancing. A dance is known as “churu” and each performance tells a Yapese story. For example, there are dances which explain the Japanese occupation in Yap and then the US occupation during World War II. For a video of a traditional dance, click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gRRxn8Fsek

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