Heiva i Tahiti 2014

My life in a local dance troupe

Heiva i Tahiti 20142014 will mark my 5th participation to the ‘Heiva i Tahiti’ contest. This traditional dance and song contest is a major event for any Polynesian dancer. During the Heiva period (also called Tiurai), Polynesians commemorate their culture and revisit their origins.

I have been practicing Ori Tahiti (Polynesian dance) since I was 14. Being in a dance troupe for the last 4 years, I feel ready for the Heiva festival.
heiva-03In the recent weeks, our rehearsals have moved up a notch being more intense and frequent. Our group can feel the pressure mounting as it is leading up to the big day of the Heiva . As rehearsals require a big space for all of the dancers and we usually gather in a large gymnasium loaned to us by the city. It allow us practice, refine our moves, choreography and position on stage. As our leader always says, “There is no room for improvisation in for the Heiva”.

heiva-04The last week, we discovered the “new” To’ata presentation square, bringing to my mind a Coliseum. There, we conduct our dress rehearsals, ironing out the kinks to our dance routine that involves 150 dancers on a 200m² stage. In Polynesia, we take this competition very seriously and there is no room for error.

Being in an experienced troupe, we are to be competing in the Hurau Tau category. A category is reserved for amateur dance groups. I feel privileged to participate once again. As the contest is always well regulated, each group has to perform 5 numbers of traditional dance (Otea, Aparima, Paoa, Hivinau and Aparima vava).

As I wait for our turn, we’ll soon be entering the “lions’ den” in a few minutes to face 13 other groups. After 5 years running, I still have butterflies in my stomach. Again, this year our dance must embody an historical or legendary theme directly inspired from Polynesian culture.

heiva-01Our costumes are also an important aspect of the contest. The costumes help us to transport the spectators into our “universe”. In fact, the Heiva rules require us to present 3 types of costumes: one made with more (natural fiber), a costume plants and a costume made of fabrics. Other dancers, friends and families help us with our costume making which is a long and tedious step, particularly for the vegetal ones that require many fresh flowers. I feel lucky that my whole family is with me on this and I remember my mother helping me weave my headdress into the late hours the night before the contest.

All the hard work was worth the effort. Keeping in mind that the Heiva is a “great celebration”!
Ok now, it’s our turn to get into the “arena” carried by the beating of the Toere….tension mounts as well as our excitement! As we enter with our smiles and hearts full of confidence, we feel all the pleasure after all our hard work … a bit of stress and a taste of adrenaline. The public’s applause transcend us. The magic is working well … do you feel it ?



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