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Tahitian Dancing and It's Story
French Polynesia (Tahiti)
French Polynesia more commonly known as “Tahiti” primarily consists of five main island groups.
These island groups called “archipelagos” are located in the South Pacific approximately 8 hours by plane from Los Angeles, California. Tahiti is in the same time zone as Hawaii and is exactly the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north.
The archipelagos consist of the following island groups:
- Bora Bora
- Raiatea & Taha’a
The Marquesas Islands
The Gambier Islands
The Austral Islands
Small But Poignant Part of History
Approximately 4000 BC, the beginning of a great migration developed from Southeast Asia across the vast and open ocean to settle in the Pacific Islands.
Many historians and researchers concluded that Samoa and Tonga were settled around 1300 BC. From there, colonization voyages were created and launched to sail to the Marquesas Islands. This would take place in or around 200 BC.
Massive migrations began to form over the next several centuries which voyagers would sail to the Tahitian Islands and virtually colonize the entire South Pacific.
Today, we know this area in the Pacific Ocean as the “Polynesian Triangle”.
This triangle includes Hawaii (north), Easter Island (Southeast), and New Zealand (Southwest).
Because of all the migrations that took place throughout the centuries, the native Hawaiians and the Maoris (of New Zealand) originate from common ancestors as well as speak a similar language. This language is known as Maohi.
A Taste of the Tahitian Culture
Today, the Tahitians continue to maintain their heritage and traditions of their Maohi ancestors through oral history and adventures of their gods and warriors.With colorful legends of javelin throwing contests of the gods, kings who favored surf riding, and outrigger canoe racing and stone lifting which was a contest of pure strength between the Aito (Strongmen). When you visit the islands, you will experience the rich full Tahitian culture which welcomes visitors from all over the world.
Handed Down Traditions
The handcrafts of the Tahitian ancestorsare very sacred and are passed down from generation to generation by the “mamas” who are the guardians of tradition as well as the matriarchs of the Tahitian society. The skills are passed down by the skilled craftsmen to their sons and daughters. Many traditional items would include quilting and weaving, wooden sculptures and bowls, ceremonial drums, tapa cloth used for many things, special carvings, and hand-dyed pareus.
A Floral French Polynesia
The islands are in an abundance of tropical flowers. There are flowers everywhere. You will see many of the Tahitians wearing hibiscus blooms behind the ear. Tradition tells us that, if taken or spoken for, women and men will wear a flower behind the left ear. The Tiare, Tahitian flower and originally found in Tahiti, is used in leis to greet visitors on their arrival to the islands and to families who are returning home.
Florals are abundant in the Tahiti Fete and Heiva festivals. The leis, Hakus (head leis), ankle leis, head dresses, skirts, and so much more account for 65% of the performances.
Dance of Celebration and Tradition
The Polynesian culture testifies to its resilience of ancient times through the beautiful and powerful drama of the Tahitian dance.Each dance portrays a symbol of life in one way or another.Someone would dance for joy, to pray to a god or worship a king. Other dances would include a challenge to an enemy or to flirt or seduce a mate. There are also dances of matrimony, or a celebration, such as a birth, as well as dances to welcome visitors to the islands.
The dances would also be accompanied by musical instruments such as nasal flutes, conch shells, drums and singing. Today’s modern Tahitian sound would often blend its Polynesian rhythm with western Melody.
Visitors around the world would travel to Tahiti or Hawaii to be a part of the Polynesian festivities. The annual Heiva Festival in Tahiti and the Tahiti Fete’s in Hawaii gather Tahitians and Hawaiians in Papeete from many islands to display their exquisite crafts and compete in ancient sporting events and in the oldest traditional and most elaborate dance performances you will ever see.
The most athletic and vigorous dancers perform. Their training is extensive and the movements that you see are breathtaking.The Movements of the hips and the gracefulness of the hands tell a complete story. The beat of the drums keep the dancers in rhythm as they move around the floor with ease.
Most dancers start as soon as they can walk and train at least twice weekly and more when getting ready for a competition or performance.
Tahitian dance is not a hobby. It’s an art and a way of life.
Miss Kauai 2008
Miss Kauai's Last Dance~ Tahitian Style!
Some of the most beautiful dancers live on Kauai. Every year at the Miss Kauai Pageant, the reigning Queen will give her final dance to say her mahalo's to her family, friends and sponsors.
I found this video from the 2009 Miss Kauai Pageant with reigning queen Shawna Tamayose dancing her last dance as Miss Kauai 2008. Be sure to watch the whole thing. You will be amazed. She is also wearing Kauai's color, Royal Purple.