If you've never studied Polynesia, just watch a live performance. Have you ever wondered how you would feel when on stage, when dancing Hula or Tahiti Ori. It is not just the easy movement of the hip when the dancers shake with perfect harmony in the hands, shoulders and feet, or the mesmerizing rhythm of music, or beautiful costumes. That's how all the pieces fit together in an extremely harmonious way, making it hard for you to take your eyes off the dancers.
THE ORIGIN OF THE DANCE
Polynesia dances include styles like Tahiti, Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Maori (New Zealand) and Hawaii. It began as a buffer for the oral story tradition of those islands, literally conveying the meaning of the story. Modern Polynesian dance still tells stories through motion, but those stories can be a bit more abstract, allowing the audience to focus on the beauty of the dance itself.
WATCH AND LEARN
Today, Polynesian dance is widely performed around the world: at concerts, colleges and universities, civic events, competitions and festivals. Different dance classes and workshops are also available. Like many other dance forms, Polynesian dancers can perform as soloists but often dance with groups and companies. Many teachers perform dual tasks as performers and directors of delegations or companies, so ask your teacher if and where they perform.
Today, Hawaii Hawaii dance consists of two basic styles: Hula Kahiko (Ancient Hula) and Hula Auana (Modern Hula). Hula Kahiko related to powerful hand movements is performed for songs, or mele, of a singer playing gourd drums. Hula Auana, set up in contemporary music or accompanied by a ukelele, is more gentle and smooth.
The Tahiti dance consists of fast, smooth hips, usually set to the beat of a drum or slit-log drum. These hip isolates, called oteas, are the hallmarks of many luau performances. Dancing Tahiti also has a special basic step for men, pa’oti, including opening and closing the knees slightly bent like scissors.
Samoa culture has many interesting visual dances, or siva, such as Siva Afi ("fireknife"), in which the dancers spin and throw a single-edged or double-edged sword on the fire. This dance originated as a way to train warriors, as well as Fa’ataupati, or Samoan, to teach young men the coordination by having them beat different parts of the body.
Maori dance, originating in New Zealand, often involves sticks, songs and games. Particularly noticeable is the Poi dance, in which Maori women spin the ball of Poi small balls attached to braided strands in an attempt to keep their hands flexible to weave. The whirring sound created by the props is also thought to evoke the noise of the sea and of different animals.
Fijian dance is characterized by meke dance, including dancing, fan dance and sitting dance. At the same time strong and charming, meke often comes with singing, drumming and clapping, and is dancing in celebrations and special occasions.
One of Tonga's most popular dances is Tau Hoaolunga, often performed by weddings, using hand movements to interpret the lyrics. Other notable Tongan dances include Lakalaka, using only arm movements; the Ma’ulu’ulu, a sitting dance; and Kailao, a war dance in which dancers use clubs to simulate combat.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Polynesian dance is its focus on personal expression. “It’s culture, history, artistry, pageantry, discipline and passion all in one.” Makalina, a teacher with the Hawaiian Express and Lei Pasifika dance companies added.
One of the equally good experiences is spending time with the local people and learning about their culture and history. Tahiti will have to be one of the happiest countries on earth, with lots of lovely people, all willing to welcome you to the island and share their history with you.