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Vince J.C. Reyes Biography

By Judy Flores, PhD

Vincent J. C. Reyes is the newest appointed Master of Chamorro dance and serves as Director of the Inetnon Gefpå'go Cultural Arts Program. Reyes, the son of Vicente (Ben) T. Reyes and Frances C. Sablan, was born and raised in the village of Malesso in southern Guam. He describes himself as growing up in a very Chamorro-Americanized family of the 1970s and 1980s. They lived in a comfortable, modern house. Like most parents of that generation, Reyes' parents raised him in an English-speaking environment to help him succeed in the Western world, as they put it. They otherwise practiced Chamorro traditions of extended family ties and obligations, respect for elders, and deep faith in their Catholic religion.

Reyes was inspired by an oral history project in high school, whereby he began to explore and appreciate his Chamorro heritage. In his desire to access this world that he formerly took for granted, he began to spend more time with his elders, trying to learn more about his language and traditions. He continued his search through his college years, enhancing his Chamorro language skills whenever possible. Reyes explored his Catholic musical heritage, too, while serving as the choir director of the San Dimas Voices in Faith Choir, whose Chamorro songs and chants provided inspiration for several of the songs and dances he later created. In 1999, the choir produced Guam's first CD compilation of traditional Chamorro church music. This album successfully demonstrated how traditional music can evolve without losing sight of its original intent.

After earning his Bachelor's degree in International Business and Political Science Reyes eventually pursued his teaching certification from the University of Guam. He gained valuable marketing experience as an account manager for Latte Publishing, Inc., and worked closely with Pulitzer Prize Winner Manny Crisostomo. He then moved on to work for Sanctuary, Inc., as Human Resources Director, where he administered and developed selected programs for at-risk youth, supervised and trained residential workers, and was responsible for public relations.

In 2000 Reyes began teaching at Inarajan Middle School (IMS) as a cultural arts teacher, where he authored and implemented the school's first cultural arts program. He formed the dance group, Inetnon Natibu, in 2001 as a venue for his graduating middle school students to continue their traditional arts and dance activities. He collaborated with Gef Pa'go Chamorro Cultural Village in Inalahan to develop and implement an intergenerational program for his students to experience hands-on training from the Gef Pa'go traditional masters. In 2004 he was hired as Gef Pa'go's Youth Program Director, thereby forming a strong link between his school base and the community. The group chose the name Inetnon Gefpå'go to better define their association with the southern communities that feed Inarajan Middle School.

Reyes has always had a passion to perpetuate and promote Guam's Chamorro Heritage and believes that it is through cultural performance arts that he is able to channel this passion. However, he considers himself only the platform and vehicle to instill a sense of pride and identity for Guam's young people.

One of Reyes' philosophies for promoting Chamorro culture through the arts is based on the premise of being able to successfully "market" culture to compete with the many modern enticements available to today's Chamorro youth. The success of his group is based on making it prestigious to be a member of Inetnon Gefpå'go. His dancers define their goal as becoming the "Fame school of Guam," analogous to the dance academy featured in the classic dance television show and movie, Fame. To that end, Reyes has developed a qualifying application process for members of his dance classes. After going through a series of dance skills auditions, teacher recommendations, written essay and panel interviews, the aspiring students are awarded membership during a school-wide assembly and dance performance conducted each semester. Student and group achievements are awarded with monogrammed T-shirts, polo shirts and wraps. For each level of cultural skills achievement, members are awarded with specially-made pendant signifying their rank in the group. Members are professionally photographed and video-documented to be featured on annual calendars, CD, and DVD productions. They are groomed in a holistic grounding of cultural crafts, traditions, language, history and performance skills to represent the best of Chamorro culture. Reyes consistently works to ensure that his members are more than entertainers – that they promote their heritage by living their culture intrinsically.

By the time Inetnon Gefpå'go celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2010, they had achieved international recognition and awards. They became the most-selected traveling group for the Guam Visitors Bureau to represent Guam in their visitor markets, performing since 2006 at numerous promotions in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and the Philippines. Through their efforts, they earned the Guam Visitors Bureau Excellence in Tourism Hafa Adai Spirit Award in 2006 and 2009. In addition, they were invited to participate in the "Culture Moves!" symposium sponsored by University of Hawaii and Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2006. They also participated in the Festival of Pacific Arts in Palau in 2004 and in American Samoa in 2008. Senior group members also have traveled through Europe in two Folk Festival tours with the International Organization of Folk Artists (IOV).

Inetnon Gefpå'go placed first in the Chant Division of the University of Guam 6th Annual CHamoru Language Competition in 2009. They were the overall winners in the 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2009 Dinana' Minagof Cultural Dance Competition. Furthermore, they have won the Best Folklore Performance at the Korea World Travel Fair (KOTFA) in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

As teacher and group leader, Reyes was awarded the Traditional Teacher of the Year Award from the Guam Humanities Council (2004). He was also invited as the Oceania Representative presenter/panelist for the IOV World Youth Congress in 2008. His work at Guam Department of education, h led to him to develop the school's cultural arts program that has brought awards and recognition to the schools he's taught as the most culturally connected school of the Guam Department of Education system.

Reyes and his group can be seen performing live at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort Dinner Show, where they have been showcasing Guam's first full-Chamorro Cultural content show in a major hotel venue since 2007.

In 2012, the Cultural Dance Curriculum he authored was successfully approved by the Guam Education Policy Board and is now the official curriculum for all middle schools on the island. He recently transferred to Southern High School where he is now tasked to create a cultural fine arts program that infuses cultural tourism, hospitality, marketing, and the arts.

He has had the distinguished honor to be selected as a Jury Member for Cheonan World Folk Dance Competition in Cheonan City, Korea (2012, 2013, 2014 an 2015) as well as the 14th International Buyukcekmece Culture and Art Festival in Istanbul, Turkey (2013, 2014). Indonesian World Folkdance Competition in Jakarta, Indonesia (2013), and Festival Carpati in Petisi, Romania (2015)

In 2015, Vince Reyes was awarded the MagPro Governors Award of Excellence Merit Cup of Excellence Overall Employee of the Year Award and is newest inductee as Master of Chamorro Dance. Mr. Reyes continues serves as National Folkdance Director for Guam and also serves as Local Chairperson for Oceania as part of the Federation of International Dance Festivals (FIDAF).

While still working fulltime as a teacher at Southern High School, Vince readily took the opportunity to share his knowledge and passion by becoming a part of the pioneering team of the Chamorro Studies Program at the University of Guam, offering Chamorro Dance as an upper division Fine Arts elective during the Spring Semester.

During the summer of 2014, his group gained notable international acclaim for the island during a 5-week tour at some of the most prestigious folk dance festivals in Europe. That same year, his group won the Best Cultural Group Award for the 2014 Island Music Awards. Vince also was recognized as the A'adahen Kultura-ta (Protector of our Culture) KUAM Careforce Honoree. Mr. Reyes ended the year by co-producing Southern's Got Talent Production. In conjunction with the Superintendent of Education, Vince lead an island wide Wave Campaign against the glamorization of violence in social media.

Mr. Reyes shows no signs of slowing down. In 2015 he traveled with his group back to Istanbul where his group won 3rd Place overall. They continued on to Romani and took 4th place.

The leadership and creative direction of Vince Reyes continues to provide inspirational and appealing ways to entice youth and young adults to learn about and promote their cultural heritage through the arts.

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