Friday, September 16, 2016

Festival des Arts -- Polynesia

With the wind still howling on the north side of Moorea we decided to relocate to Papeete on Sunday, June 11th. It was the usual boisterous ride up wind around the corner of the island and then a reach across to Marina Tiana, about 10 miles south of Papeete. Amazingly there was only a light wind in the Marina area (sheltered around the corner from the easterly winds) and we enjoyed a celebratory drink while tied to a ball in the marina’s huge mooring field.

The next day we took a bus up into Papeete to retrieve our repaired Yamaha 15 outboard motor, a mainstay in our ability to get around in the dingy. A design flaw in an otherwise incredibly reliable motor allows salt water to splash on the upper shaft bearing. If you use the motor everyday it’s no issue, but if you store the motor that corrosive salt literally welds the bearing shut so the motor won’t turn. This is the third time it’s happened to us following storage and it’s getting old. We’ve hired a lady to watch over our boat this November and one of her jobs will be to crank the outboard a couple times a week.

While in town, Meryl bought a new pad (it was even on sale!) for our aging mattress. She’ll have a sewing project getting it cut down to shape, but it should be a good improvement. We also stopped by the Maison de la Culture to get Wednesday tickets for the upcoming Festival de Arts, Polynesia, a new dance series that runs all week featuring dance teams from all over Polynesia. We have no idea how good it will be but if past festivals are an indicator, it should be fantastic.

Steve and LiLi from LiWard.
Back at the marina we ran into old friend’s Steve and LiLi from LiWard and they mentioned they were going to the Festival tonight and asked if we’d like to join them. They had a rental car which made transportation so much easier. We left a little early since none of us had tickets and were soon in the back of a very long, and very slow moving ticket line. Steve and LiLi got the last pair of tickets together so Meryl and I had to split up. The good thing is we were both very close to the stage in what turned out to be great seats.

The Chief gives an incantation in Tahitian describing the dance.
The dance troupe was so large it filled the aisles and mezzanine.
Next came in the female dancers, dressed with flowered crowns, floral tops, and white waist length pareu’s. This is the part everyone was waiting for as 40 pairs of hips slowly rotated in synchronization as only Tahitians can dance. As the tempo and pulsating beat of the drums increased so did the hips, first in a mesmerizing rotation that had the rapt attention of everyone in the audience, then in a syncopated frenzy that is truly hard to describe. I remember someone saying you are supposed to follow their hand movements — yea, right!  Added to the dancing, the sheer tropical beauty of the Tahitian women made for a performance to be remembered by all.

Given the size of the troupe, I had male dancers leading up the side stairs (where my aisle seat was) and dancing about two feet away. When they thrust their arms out, I had to quickly duck. These guys paddle their canoes all day and dance at night and to say they are ripped (most of them) is an understatement.

The next troupe, the Hinana Kapahaka dancers from New Zealand, was a complete counterpoint to the Tahitians. A much smaller troupe of about 10 dancers, they made up for size in humor and creativity. It was a treat for us since they spoke in English and we could finally understand what was going on. They started with the requisite Haka, the Maori warrior’s “confrontation dance.” They then went through a repertoire of dances with swinging balls on strings, long sticks that were thrown to each other in syncopation, and other dances. A wry comment from the lead male performer would bring a laugh from the crowd.

I have to say it’s exhausting watching these type of dances, especially the Tahitians where your body is pulsating to the thunderous beat of the drums, your feet are tapping on the floor, and your eyes are trying to follow that rhythmic rotation of hips that are in perfect sync with the drums. But fun.

Best thing to say: It was a fantastic evening for everyone.

We also attended the next night where we had super seats in the center of the 10th row. The show started with a group representing all the Marquesan Islands (I’lle de Paques et Taki Toa). Marquesan dancing is much more male-oriented with most dances focused on preparations for warfare. The dancing is so powerful, with lots of leaping and feet crashing to the floor that it almost wears you out. It was nice when it was the women’s turn to sing a melodic supportive chorus to the male dancers.

While it's difficult to see, this scene was of a Marquesan being tattooed using the traditional method of a small hammer, ink, and combs made out of mother-of-pearl.
The second dance troupe of the evening was from Easter Island, the Rapa Nui. At the Marquesan Dance Festival last year the Rapa Nui brought the house down. This group performed a different style of dancing backed by a rock-type band with an accordion. The women, taller and more European in nature since Spanish Ecuador populated the island, are always fun to watch in their white feather headdresses and white boa skirts. Amazingly some female dancers had a white “modesty dress” underneath the boa skirts while others had, well, not much. Remember, you need to watch the hand movements to learn the story they are telling. Watch the hands. OK.

The male Rapa Nui dancers were certainly favorites of the women in the audience.

The Fertility Dance was greatly toned down from the one we saw in the Marquesas.
The male Rapa Nui dancers were pure eye candy for the females in the audience. Dressed in mostly what I would describe as a frontal “cod piece” and only a thong in the back, their finely honed and oiled bodies made “Dancing with the Stars” look like a Sunday School recital. Thank God they toned down their fertility dance that we saw in the Marquesas since that would have most likely caused heart attacks in the audience.

Once again, a fantastic evening of dance and pure enjoyment of the Polynesian culture. It was fun to talk with Steve and LiLi about everyone’s impressions of the evening to share such a great event with friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment