Dancing is another of my favorite interests
and on Moorea I was able to attend Tahitian dance lessons with Pat who
I introduced in "Sugar." Our tutor was Nita who had a ready effervescent
smile and a love of dance that radiated through the class. Nita wore a
fresh bright yellow flower crown that highlighted the standard class dress
of a small top or bikini and a length of fabric wrapped around our hips
called a pareau. Dance class had been running for three months twice a
week, so needles to say I ended up dancing two movements behind everyone
else. We practiced five dances, three that were slow and fluid in movement
with songs expressing Tahiti, her islands and her people. The other two
dances were the traditional Tamure, a fast rhythmic drum beat to which
you essentially wiggle your hips in a rapid movement to the drums, keeping
your feet flat on the ground and upper body still while moving your arms.
It all looks rather easy but then you then have to walk and turn remembering
to keep your eyes following your hands. I was rather glad class was just
an hour and a half for at the end my bottom felt like Jell-O and my thighs
as if they were in a monkey grip. Over all it was a great workout, a lot
of fun, and an insight into Tahiti's charm.
With a few days free in Rarotonga I hope to
be able to persuade someone teach me a local dance or two. Cook Island
dancing is similarto Tahitian but without the dramatic Tamure. The feet
are moved more, with alternating feet being presented sideways on each
beat of the music. The upper body remains still while the hands, arms
and eyes tellthe story. I've asked around but there is no one who gives
lessons and a few people even suggested that I attend aerobics instead,
guess I'll keep asking.
Traditional dancing, Cook Islands.
Traditional Custom Dancing of the
Small Mambas, Malakula Island
We were invited to watch a dance performance
by the village at Banam Bay on SE Malakula Island. As a means to create
income for the village they have formed a culture group to perform their
traditional dancing. Their art of dancing had nearly been lost and was
restored and taught three years ago by a village elder who now overseas
The men dance separate from the women and
it is tabu for the village women to view and enter the men's sacred dancing
compound called a Nasara. It is here that the men danced dances of life
representing happiness, the sun, circumcision, and the life of a warrior.
The women's compound is just outside and we watched the women and children
dance to a quick slit drum rhythm and chanting. They stood in two rows
and every so often in time to the music would cross over finishing with
a whoop and holler. The women invited the ladies in our party to join
in and we proceeded with a slow run and hop crossing over to the other
line now and then. It was exciting standing next to these strong proud
women dressed only in grass skirts, for time seemed to stand still.
Amanda joins the women in performing custom dancing
I had worn my flower crown that I made in
Tahiti and Jean who I had met the day before was very interested in it.
I asked for some pandanas and if it was possible to pick some flowers
and leaves to show her how it was made. Before long we had quite and audience
and I ended up giving her crown as a present. In return she presented me
with a pandanas mat she had woven. Plaiting a seam down the middle then
joining two halves together starts their most common mat. The end product
is a little smaller than the Fijian mat but has an interesting center seam
from which radiates dyed strips.
I spent time joining my new friends Mehaf and
Jean under the trees in the shade swapping information on our lives. I
had bought ashore some Scottish Country and Tahitian dance music and did
a small performance, they giggled and exclaimed when I wiggled my hips
to the Tahitian tamure, and gazed in amazement at the footwork of Scottish.
I even convinced a couple of women to join me, they found that it hurt
to point their toes for the Scottish steps though they enjoyed the rhythm.
Amanda chatting with Jean after dancing
Amanda shops for a Ni-Vatu "Mother Hubbard"
Arriving in the capital of Port Vila I had
fun scoping out the local market, having enjoyed the colorful "Mother
Hubbard" dresses of the Ni-Vanuatu women I had a great time choosing