Dance Tahiti!



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Polynesian Cultural Center Tahitian Dancers dancing in the Pageant of the Long Canoes performed daily at the Center.

While all cultures around the world have their own dances, none seem to be more synonymous with dancing than the cultures of Polynesia, and none more famous than the Tahitian tāmūrē (tah-moo-ray).

Most people in the world will be able to describe Tahitian dancing in one way or another, even if they are not able to identify it by name. The most likely responses received when asking random people about the tāmūrē (asked as “Tahitian dancing”) are “quick rapid drum beats,” “athletic men shaking their knees and jumping,” and, perhaps the most common of all responses, “girls in grass skirts shaking their hips.”

It’s difficult to not be amazed when watching the Tahitian dancers perform. The drum beats grow more and more rapid and yet the dancers appear undaunted as they match the drums beat for beat to a point of seemingly superhuman speed.

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Vaimiti Cates in the Polynesian Cultural Center         Tahitian Village

The predecessor to the tāmūrē was the ‘upa’upa, and  was actually outlawed by English missionaries because  of its sexual undertones. Not ones to be completely  controlled, the Tahitians would dance in secret.

 

Many  years later when the French took over, they were then  allowed to dance during celebrations, but were still  restricted in their dancing. As time went on and with tourism  starting to become a major industry, Tahitian dancing  started to flourish once again. Although modern dances  are not the same as their predecessors, they are still just  as awe inspiring.

 

Even now to the outside viewer, the dance may seem  overtly sexual, but it is a way of connecting to one’s  culture.

 

Vaimiti Cates, a Tahitian BYU-Hawaii student, explains  that Tahitian dance is “a way to have extreme joy and be  able to share that joy, but especially the message given  by the music or the song danced. In the Tahitian culture,  dancing was first a ceremonial thing to express joy, to tell  a story, to share a message, and a way of keeping  legends. BUT it is especially a way of gathering to have  fun and mix with others.”

The predecessor to the tāmūrē was the ‘upa’upa, and  was actually outlawed by English missionaries because  of its sexual undertones. Not ones to be completely  controlled, the Tahitians would dance in secret.

 

Many  years later when the French took over, they were then  allowed to dance during celebrations, but were still  restricted in their dancing. As time went on and with tourism  starting to become a major industry, Tahitian dancing  started to flourish once again. Although modern dances  are not the same as their predecessors, they are still just  as awe inspiring.

 

Even now to the outside viewer, the dance may seem  overtly sexual, but it is a way of connecting to one’s  culture.

 

Vaimiti Cates, a Tahitian BYU-Hawaii student, explains  that Tahitian dance is “a way to have extreme joy and be  able to share that joy, but especially the message given  by the music or the song danced. In the Tahitian culture,  dancing was first a ceremonial thing to express joy, to tell  a story, to share a message, and a way of keeping  legends. BUT it is especially a way of gathering to have  fun and mix with others.”

Dancing in any form is a great way to have fun, but next time you feel like cutting loose or sharing a message try the tāmūrē.

If you need a few pointers you should visit the Tahitian village in the Polynesian Cultural Center.

For a practical demostration watch this amazing video of Tahitian dancing.

Horizons Night Show Tahitian Section 2008 Polynesian Cultural Center

Trevor Smith

 

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souvenirbook

Learn more about 

Tahiti at the 

Polynesian Cultural Center

horizons
See the entire Horizons show
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Enjoy the music of Tahiti

and other villages at the

Polynesian Cultural Center

 

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trevorandmelindaAuthor Bio: The path from Perris, California to Laie, Hawaii has taken Trevor from high school to the Marines, where he served as a rifleman for 4 years, marriage to the lovely Melinda Smith and finally to Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Trevor’s major is Business Management-Finance plus a Minor in Accounting with a legal studies emphasis. He currently works as a tutor in the Reading Writing Center on campus and hopes to attend law school on the east coast after graduation. Working as a corporate lawyer in New York would be Trevor’s dream job although he can always write about his adventures in Hawaii for his back up plan.

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