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Dance with a Moko Jumbie!

St. Croix 100 - #52 Moko DanceMoko Jumbies are a cultural icon here on the island of St. Croix, and dancing with one of these talented stilt dancers should be on the top of every visitor’s ‘must-do’ list. Moko Jumbies have been part of the Virgin Island’s cultural heritage for over 200 years, and their origins can be traced to Africa as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries. Moko Jumbies are said to ward away evil spirits (or ‘jumbies’) from parades, gatherings, and festivals by standing on 10-20 foot high stilts, making them tall enough to reach the evil spirits and drive them away from the crowd.  Moko Jumbies are generally covered from head to toe in elaborate costumes, hats, gloves, and masks. The story goes, that the Moko Jumbie must be completely covered (except for their eyes) so that the jumbies don’t recognize them.

Today, Moko Jumbies have become an integral part of St. Croix’s events and cultural scene. You can find the Moko Jumbies welcoming cruise ship passengers at the Frederiksted Pier, leading parades, dancing at jump ups, and as the premier entertainment at many island celebrations.  These towering artists perform amazing dances on their stilts to festive music, combining almost slow-motion movements and acrobatic feats with synchronized choreography. You really have to see the Moko Jumbies dance to truly appreciate them. Not only do they seem to float across the floor like ghosts at times, but they shimmy, run, jump and even hop around on one stilt! The balance of these performers is remarkable, especially when you consider that people are encouraged to dance with the Moko Jumbies. Adults and children alike dance under and around the Moko Jumbies’ stilts and take pictures with them, all while the statuesque performers dance and pose to the delight of the audience!

After two years of living on St. Croix, I still don’t miss an opportunity to see the Moko Jumbies and I go out and dance with them every chance I get. I also enjoy watching the smiles and pure delight on the faces of the crowd when they see these amazing artists for the first time, especially the kids. Not only is dancing with a Moko Jumbie fun, it is also a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Plus, it is considered good luck to dance with a Moko Jumbie! Seeing the Moko Jumbies is  fun and exciting entertainment for the entire family, and can be experienced at weekly cultural nights offered at several hotels and resorts island wide. Please see our Calendar of Events for the dates and locations of the weekly Caribbean nights, as well as the quarterly Christiansted Jump Ups, where you can get your groove on with one of the Moko Jumbies of St. Croix.

– Jennie Ogden, Editor
Note: Don’t forget to tip your Moko Jumbie when you get up and dance with them, they work VERY hard to preserve this cultural tradition while offering fun and lively entertainment.
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