Superyacht visitors to Tahiti will find there is much to learn and enjoy about the ‘Maohi’ people and the culture of French Polynesia, reports longtime resident Etienne Boutin, heading up Asia Pacific Superyachts Tahiti.
Migrating from Western Polynesia around 700 AD, the Maohi people developed a unique oral culture over the centuries which followed, of uniquely Polynesian dances (Ori), songs (Himene) and formal public speeches (Orero). Considering these arts to be ‘too lavish of an expression of the Polynesian soul’, leaders in the earlier centuries of the transplanted European religions tried to control the traditional and ethnic arts of the islands’ heritage. However, all of this changed in the second half of the 20th century when a string of young leaders took on the enormous tasks of recovering their ancestral culture and arts. The result is a remarkable leap forward with Polynesian culture today outshining her heritage. Visitors are now welcomed to join in watching powerful performances during ‘Heiva I Tahiti’, the most important of the dancing and singing competitions, held annually in Papeete in early July since 1881.
Reporting on the 2014 French Polynesian dance event, Mr. Boutin is enthusiastic about welcoming visitors to join in Tahiti’s cultural festivities, noting: “The 2014 ‘Heiva I Tahiti’ competition was a great success with 30 groups drawn from throughout the archipelagoes, all fiercely challenging one another for the prizes. I encourage every Superyacht visitor to schedule one evening downtown Papeete at the Toata Arena during the annual event, where they can view groups of a hundred-plus dancers performing long and complex shows based on a storyline of ancient legends.”
Visitors, including those from visiting Superyachts, can also see the Heiva winners at the ‘Mini Heiva’ festival held at the end of July at the Intercontinental Tahiti Hotel.
Another option in learning more about Polynesian culture and dances is for Superyacht visitors to enjoy ‘Ori Tahiti’ throughout the year, explains Etienne Boutin: “We can arrange for a vessel to receive onboard one of the many smaller island groups when cruising well-known places such as Bora Bora or Moorea - or even the more remote islands of the Marquesas Archipelago. Today’s Superyachts have sufficient space on deck to accommodate 4-5 musicians and allow a dance group of 6-10 girls and boys to express and share their joy of dance into the night under a starry sky to an appreciative onboard audience.” Images displayed on board are of private Tahitian performances aboard M/y Big Fish, a 45m expedition (explorer) type steel displacement luxury motor yacht; and M/y Big Aron, a magnificent expedition yacht (147' 7") with five decks commanding vast interior and exterior living spaces – perfect for dance performances!
“All the dancers are non-professionals, dancing for the love of their culture and they’re well-trained in displaying several dance types”, he adds, “The ‘Otea’ is the famous hip-shaking dance performed to the syncopated rhythm of wooden drums or the ‘Aparima’, a fast paced dance often executed in Pareu (sarong).”
The dance troupe will often invite guests and crew members watching onboard to share the excitement. They will instruct the ladies on the Tahitian hip movements and style and, for the men, the ‘Pa’oti’, a vigorous scissoring movement of the legs while bending down and keeping the back straight. The shared dancing is guaranteed to be fun for all!
There are also many beaches on the islands of Tahiti where a Superyacht can anchor while guests go ashore to delight in a private dance show accompanied by the traditional Polynesian meal called ‘Tamara’a’. The mouth-watering feast is comprised of an assortment of piglet, fish, lobster and local veggies such as taro root, breadfruit, plantain or sweet potatoes - all cooked in an earth oven of hot stones and served with an abundance of coconut milk. An added attraction of a beach party is that the location allows the musicians and dance group to safely perform the ’Fire Dance’, among the top choice of today’s guests list of favorites.
Cruising the archipelagoes of French Polynesia on a Superyacht is an enchanting experience of wide-ranging sceneries in a warm tropical atmosphere. By experiencing the ‘Tahitian Art of Dancing’ Superyacht visitors have the opportunity to learn and enjoy more of the culture of the country and to mingle with the local population, adding to or starting - a love affair with Polynesia.
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Photo credit: Asia Pacific Superyachts Tahiti