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Tahitian Dance Moves

Rachel Hanson
Tahitian dancer

Tahitian dance moves have experienced an increase in popularity in recent years. Whether dancers have seen a video of Polynesian dances, have seen the similarities between belly dancing and Tahitian dancing, or are simply looking for something completely new, Tahitian dance has been the answer to many dancers' quests for a new dance style.

Tahiti and Dance

Tahiti is one of the islands in French Polynesia, near the middle of the Pacific Ocean. When looking at the map, it is clear that, historically, Polynesia had to have been a very isolated place. While this isolation could have also had negative impacts, one of the advantages is that Tahiti has some cultural traditions that were able to evolve completely independently from cultural influences outside Polynesia. Tahitian dance, and indeed all Polynesian dance, is vibrant, unique, and full of provocative dance steps.

History of Tahitian Dance

Throughout the history of Tahiti, dance was used at virtually every type of event in life. At one point in the day, natives would dance to pray, and at another moment in the day dance to seduce someone they were interested in sexually. Because dance was linked to all aspects of life in Tahiti, the frames, music, and story-telling power of the dances are strong.

Historically, drums and primitive instruments such as conch shells accompanied Tahitian dance. Nowadays, the instruments are primarily the same, with some updates, but the music has evolved a bit. In current Tahitian music it is often possible to discern some western melodies in the music in addition to the traditional sounds of the Tahitian music at its roots. Tahitian dance performances are vibrant in every aspect, from music to color.

Types of Tahitian Dance

As already mentioned, Tahitian dances were performed for several different types of occasions. One type was the story-telling dance, called 'Aparimas'. In this type of sequence of Tahitian dance moves, one would use particular steps and props in order to tell a story.

'Ote'a' is a celebratory or performance-based Tahitian dance form. This series of steps is how Tahitian dance got related to belly dancing: Ote'a includes a lot of fast movements of the hips, made even more spectacular by the costumes. This is the inspiration for the Hawaiian hula dance.

'Hivanau' is a circular dance performed with two circles, usually one of men and another of women. This dance style is usually thought to be easier to learn and perform than the previous two.

Learning Tahitian Dance Moves

While Tahitian dance is not taught at most dance studios, there are some instructors who specialize in this dance form. If you live in a major metropolitan area, it will be easier to find an instructor. Check for a class or studio in your region, but also remember that there are other options.

One option is to learn online. For example, on YouTube you can see performances of Ote'a Tahitian Dance or Aparima Tahitian Dance. While you may not be able to pick up all the steps from such performances, they certainly give you a good idea of the spirit of the dance and the music that accompanies it.

Yet another option is to buy some DVDs that you can learn from at home. While this is more expensive than scouring the Internet for videos and information, it is usually a more thorough route to learning anything, Tahitian dancing included.

Some DVDs that you might consider are the Dances of Tahiti for Everyone DVD, an Introduction to Polynesian Dance, or Basic Hula. Depending on the types of steps you would like to learn, one of these DVDs may work.

However you choose to learn Tahitian dance, remember that if you are having fun you will not only enjoy it more, but also be more fun to watch. One of the reasons Polynesian dance has become so popular as a performance dance is that the dancers are so open to the public by smiling at them. Dancing these historical dances is lots of fun-let it show!

Tahitian Dance Moves