HEIVA 2016 AN HOMAGE TO MADELEINE MOUA AND GILLES HOLLANDE
Madeleine Moua and Gilles Hollande are two of the most emblematic icons of ‘Ori Tahiti as they fought to revive an ancient art banned by colonisation. This year at the Heiva i Tahiti 2016, Tahiti’s post office launch their new stamp collection dedicated to the pair. Tahiti Dance Online takes a closer look.
During the Heiva i Tahiti’s prize giving night organisers made way for sponsors OPT (Tahitian post office) to pay homage to two of the greatest cultural dance pioneers Madeleine Moua, often referred to as ‘the Queen of the Heiva’ of which the grand Hura Tau trophy is named after and Gilles Hollande referred to as ‘the Prince of dance’ of which the Hura Ava Tau trophy is named after. Two people that would pave the way for generations of dancers to enjoy this cultural expression once banned by the missionaries.
Madeleine Teroroheiarii Moua born in 1899 became a symbolic figure of the ‘Ori Tahiti revival movement because of her tenacity for the cause and by establishing the first ever official dance group in 1956 that she would name HEIVA. Although most cultural knowledge had been lost due to colonisation, remnants of Tahitian dance still existed but was seen as too explicit for a 1950s colonial society considering ‘Ori Tahiti to be too sexual in nature. After spending a period of time in France, Madeleine was privy to European cultural dances that were valued in their communities and this awoke a need within her to come back to Tahiti and draw back the mana that ‘Ori Tahiti deserved. With little to go on, she would recreate a form of dancing that had movement and concentrated on spectacular costume making, including the first to wear coconut bras, as well as coining the ote’a choreography in straight lines danced in traditional costumes that we still see today.
As Tahiti’s first airport opened in Fa’a’a this was an opportunity for Tahitian culture to be exported internationally and Madeleine Moua was the first to travel the globe to promote Tahiti and her islands. Her perspective on the origins of ‘Ori Tahiti has been captured in this quote: ‘‘here there are a lot of noises. The rhythm of the waves beating on the reef, the rhythm of the wind […] that hits the walls of the valley back and forth, it gives a special rhythm that imitates the sound of the drums and naturally the little girl’s hips starts tossing. I really think that is where our dance is born. The rhythm of nature, isn’t that what is really true? That’s what created our special way of dancing”.
After more than 30 years of passionate sacrifice for the cause she will always be remembered for her dedication to the revival of ‘Ori Tahiti.
Gilles Hollande or ‘The prince of dance’ was born to a French father and Tahitian mother had a particular passion for ‘Ori Tahiti and founded ‘Ia Ora Tahiti’ in 1973 at just 23 years old. As one of Madeleine Moua’s disciples, Gilles was able to capture public attention with his vigour on stage, innovative dance concepts, costumes and music. Since Tahitian dance had gained momentum overseas thanks to Madeleine’s efforts, Gilles saw an opportunity to go further by inviting prominent French disc producers to Tahiti and convincing them to record and release songs entirely in the Tahitian language. This prompted the beginning of an international relationship whereas shortly after, a european tour was organised in Milan, Berlin and Budapest to name a few countries. Tragically, he died in 1989 at the age of 40 from a long illness which would bring the ‘Ori Tahiti world to tears.
© Polynesie Premiere
As the Heiva i Tahiti continues to grow and evolve it is always important to delve back into our past and acknowledge those who fought to keep our beloved cultural dance form alive for generations to come. Both Madeleine Moua and Gilles Hollande are remembered as emblematic figures of Tahitian dance because of their passionate devotion to this art and since the last 20 years the Heiva festival pays homage to them as the results are read out for the winners of the Hura Ava Tau and Hura Tau categories.