HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HEIVA I TAHITI FINAL WEEK
The final week of the Heiva i Tahiti 2016 had more surprises in store as the outer islands came back in force with Tamarii Anau from Bora Bora and Tahina no Uturoa from Raiatea but also a strong participation by Hura Tau groups Ahutoru Nui, Tamari’i Tipaerui and Toakura to top off this years festivities. Tahiti Dance Online offers you this week’s insights!
‘O Vau’ or ‘It’s me’ was the theme that this week’s opening Hura Tau group ‘Ahutoru Nui’ presented at this year’s Heiva. A theme that would ask us to delve into ourselves to ask ‘where we are really going in life’, one that encourages us to understand our celestial selves and stay grounded by acknowledging our land and language. A theme performed with vigour and in particular by the group’s soloists Elodie Cowan and Iota Tahu chosen for their dance capacities and who are larger than what is considered ‘the norm’ as international choreographer Coco Tirao urges us to put aside the physical and concentrate on the beauty of our culture instead of waist size. At the end of the show the group paid homage to elders Tiapati and Danny Avaemai and Papi Temaiana who were instrumental in Coco’s dance apprenticeship and pioneers in the early ‘Ori Tahiti movement by bringing them onto stage and crowning them with ‘hei tiare’ (tiare flower crowns). A humbling gesture that would bring us back to the very essence of the Heiva, to always acknowledge our ancestors in our cultural evolution.
© Mike Leyral
Since ‘O Marama’ in 2012 the island of Bora Bora who is renown for their dancing prowess has not graced the stage of To’ata. This year community group ‘Pupu Tamari’i Anau’ led by Fifi Reupena Dany and Vainui Teriipaia decided to come and compete in the Hura Tau division for the first time with their theme entitled ‘Anau is where i’m from’ presenting various legends from that area, notably one about the ancient warrior ‘Faeta’. After fundraising for almost a year and practicing two shows at once, one for the Heiva in Bora Bora and that of Tahiti, we must take our hats off to this groups who were able to accomplish their dream to perform at To’ata with no professional dancers, just kids and families from the community of Anau. What they brought to the stage was pure Tahitian dance ‘Bora Bora style’ that would set the bar for groups to come. To that, we say congratulations!
© Maison de la Culture and Dan Pihaatae (2nd photo)
‘Tahina no Uturoa’ is also an island group hailing from the sacred island Raiatea who are competing for the first time in the Hura Tau category after winning the Hura Ava Tau in 2014. The theme they chose to present speaks about the sacred mountain of ‘Tapioi’ and the surrounding delicate clouds written by Noeline Ihorai. The opening number in traditional costumes set the tone as the choreography stayed simple and remarkably traditional which gave us a sense of ‘going back to our roots’ so to speak. For reasons unknown at this point the group decided not to present anybody for best female and male solo, which left the crowd asking questions. Overall, it was a genuine and fresh performance!
An important aspect worth underlying is that groups that come from the outer islands such as Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and Rurutu are faced with numerous challenges and difficulties in order to participate at the Heiva. Competing against the groups in Tahiti is a dream come true but they are not always able to bring their best dancing elements because of life or work commitments and because travel and accommodation remains extremely expensive which necessitates fundraising efforts sometimes organised years in advance. Therefore, despite challenges they are able to participate at the Heiva, which proves to be an immense dedication to our culture that is all the more impressive.
© Maison de la Culture
One ‘Ori Tahiti dance group that is fairly unknown to the world is ‘Tamari’i Tipaerui’ created in 2005 to cater to the youth of Papeete, the capital. After a number of years of absence from the Heiva stage, leader John Cadousteau decided to bring the group back this year and present the legend of Tane and his fight against Atea. Although their numbers were not as important as the bigger groups they were able to hold their own with a very simple and raw performance with old style capes made of Auti leaves and moss to ornate red feathered hats and chest pieces. One highlight in particular was the choreography from solo dancer Mahiti Pepehau that was quite alternative and reminiscent of interpretive dance, which was unusual in this traditional context. A very well performed piece worthy of the Heiva.
© Maison de la Culture
Perhaps one of the most anticipated performances this week was that of Mateata Le Gayic’s ‘Ori Tahiti group Toakura. Their original scheduled performance was cancelled due to bad weather conditions and so they were forced to mount the stage two days later, which in fact turned out to be fitting of a spectacular Heiva finale. The theme this year written by prominent Tahitian writer Patrick Amaru was the legend of Purea, a tyrannical chieftainess from the district of Mahina who married chief ‘Tevahitua a Patea’ of Papara and had a son named ‘Teriirere’ of which she had her subjects build a prestigious temple in his honour. During the construction of the temple she refused to welcome the powerful queen ‘Tetuanui Rea i te Ra’iatea’ from ‘Teva i Tai’ and so they went to war. Legend states that the marae was literally covered in bones as Purea and her kingdom fell. Toakura’s rendition of this historical event was extremely warrior like, quite ‘paganistic’ and very theatrical where they built a replica temple and had the men of the group dance on high platforms with heavy stones to represent the constructions phase. The opening was also particularly spectacular in floral outfits complete with woven oval coconut palms strapped to their backs and bold speeches made from actors representing queen Purea and Tetuanui. Ritualistic and sombre, this performance set out to be audacious and in turn unique and very different to the other groups.
© Karim Mahdjouba
Wow! What a Heiva! This year has definitely been of the most spectacular yet with all groups bringing very different and unique styles to the stage. In three days we will know who will be crowned the best ‘Ori Tahiti group of 2016. Watch this space!