Something remarkable happened last weekend when a young woman from Stockton traveled to the Tahitian Islands to compete in the Ori Tahiti Nui world dance championships.
Competing against native Tahitians and other dancers from around the world, 19-year-old Melanie Amen captivated the judges with rhythmic hip movements, graceful hand gestures and a beautiful smile. The competition featured 17 women from Tahiti, France, Mexico, Japan and the United States. Amen could hardly believe it when she was declared the winner.
“It was overwhelming,” she said. “I feel like it’s not real. I feel like I’m just dreaming right now. I’m really thankful and really blessed.”
Amen returned to Stockton after the contest and was welcomed home with a celebratory potluck dinner in downtown Stockton. Amen received hugs, kisses and a bouquet of flowers as she greeted dozens in attendance, including family, friends, members of the Tamari’i Mata’irea Polynesian Dance Group and Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, who presented Amen with a certificate.
Melanie Amen began dancing when she was 2 and started competing at the age of 5. She’s always been very good, but she has also remained humble.
“Through the competitions that she’s won, she’s still one of the most humble people on the planet, which I’m very proud of,” her mother said.
Melanie will be going back to Tahiti next summer. She was invited to join one of the world’s best Tahitian dance groups in the world’s biggest Tahitian dance team competition.