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Viavia “VJ” Tiumalu Earns His 2nd World Fireknife Championship in 4 Years at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Viavia “VJ” Tiumalu Earns His 2nd World Fireknife Championship in 4 Years at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Laie, HI – May 14, 2011 – After four nights of fiery competition, it was former Champion Viavia “VJ” Tiumalu’s skill with the Samoan fireknife that burned brightest as the 19th Annual World Fireknife Championships culminated at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). This was Tiumalu’s second championship, also winning it in 2008.

Second and third place went to Julian Maeva of Pago Pago, American Samoa and David Galeai of Laie, Hawaii respectively.

The three finalists competed on Friday and Saturday during the intermission of PCC’s night show, Ha: Breath of Life, providing even more excitement for the sold-out crowd. The critically acclaimed evening show already features one of the largest group fireknife performances in the world, which was choreographed by this year’s finalist David Galeai.

The modern fireknife dance stemmed from the Samoan ailao, a warrior’s knife dance, performed with the nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” This dance was displayed before battle to frighten the enemy and afterward to celebrate victory. Today, the art of fireknife dancing has become one of the most intense, skillful and beautiful of Samoan traditions. The modern dance consists of twirling a sharp knife, with both ends on fire, at high speeds and requires acute precision and acrobatic finesse. The fire is very real, and dancers often make contact with the flames, sometimes intentionally.

Champions were crowned in the Junior Pacific and Open Group divisions on Thursday. The complete results from the 19th Annual World Fireknife Championships follow:

Championship (overall)
1. Viavia “VJ” Tiumalu, 19, of Orlando, Florida (Tiumalu also won the championship in 2008).
2. Julian Maeva, 26, of Pago Pago, American Samoa (This was Maeva’s first appearance in the finals).
3. David Galeai, 31, Laie, Hawaii (Galeai won the championship in 1999, 2000 and 2003 and placed 2nd in 2006).

Junior Pacific Divisions
Ages 6-11:
1. Hale Motuapuaka of Aiea, Hawaii
2. James “KJ” Ahloy of Laie, Hawaii
3. Desmond Talia of Honolulu, Hawaii

Ages 12-17:
1. Malo Matau of Laie, Hawaii
2. Keenan Chung of Kaneohe, Hawaii
3. Achilles Tafiti of Laie, Hawaii

Open Group Competition
1. Brandonlee, Jeurell and Malaki Lavatai
2. Jaz and UaMana Castillo
3. Hale Motu‘apuaka, Mila and Taleon Lele, and Natalie-Rose Oloa (featuring “secret weapon” 6-year-old “HJ”)

We Are Samoa, Samoan High School Cultural Arts Festival
In addition to the fireknife championship, the Polynesian Cultural Center today also hosted the annual We Are Samoa, Samoa High School Cultural Arts Festival, in which Oahu high schools participated, creating and exhibiting an array of Samoan cultural arts, games, songs and dances.

The Pacific Theater erupted with the cheers, chants and laughter of more than 500 high school students who participated in the competition and celebrated the Samoan culture. Students showed off their teamwork, going head-to-head in a variety of games based on daily Samoan life skills such as banana peeling, coconut husking, fire making and basket weaving. Students from Kahuku High School, Kapolei High School (joined by students from Waianae, Waipahu, Farrington, Leilehua and Nanakuli High Schools), Radford High School (joined by students from Aiea, Iolani, Kamehameha, Mililani, McKinley, Punahou, Farrington, Moanalua and St. Louis Schools) and Kailua High School participated in this years Competition.

The students performed the traditional Samoan dances, with an added modern flair, including the sasa (sitting dance) and mauluulu (girls dance) and concluding with a taupou (princess dance). At the end of the day, PCC cultural judges gave two high schools, Kapolei and Radford, top scores of “Superior” and the two others, Kahuku and Kailua, scores of “Outstanding.” All high schools were awarded prize money and donations for their participation in the event.

The 19th Annual World Fireknife Championships and We Are Samoa, Samoa High School Cultural Arts Festival were sponsored by Henry S. Mataalii and Company, Hawaiian Airlines, Turtle Bay Resort, Edwards Enterprises, Pepsi, the City and County of Honolulu, Hawai’i Tourism Authority, Bank of Hawaii and Galumalemana Lester W.B. Moore.

For more information about the Polynesian Cultural Center or to book reservations, call the ticket office toll-free at (800) 1-844-572-2347 or visit www.polynesia.com. In Hawaii, call (808) 293-3333.

Founded in 1963 as a non-profit organization, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) has entertained more than 34 million visitors, while preserving and portraying the culture, arts and crafts of Polynesia to the rest of the world. In addition, the PCC has provided financial assistance to 17,000 young people from over 70 different countries while they attend Brigham Young University-Hawaii. As a non-profit organization, 100 percent of PCC’s revenue is used for daily operations and to support education.

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