Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Te Mahana Hiro'a O Tahiti

The Polynesian Cultural Center's seventh annual Te Mahana Hiro'a O Tahiti — Tahitian Culture Days festival, will be held:

Friday, July 6th, 7:30 pm in the Hale Aloha luau theater
Saturday, July 7th, 9:00 am in the Pacific Theater

PCC's Director of Islands and Tahitian event coordinator Raymond Mariteragi said the 2007 Te Mahana Hiro'a o Tahiti dance competition will feature approximately 80 children in the only major event that focuses exclusively on young dancers, ages 3–18. "Many of these kids, some who come from the mainland U.S. and Hawaii's neighbor islands, wouldn't otherwise have a chance to compete. Most other heiva or performance competitions focus on adults."

Mariteragi added that last year's judge, Moanaura Teheiura — a well-known choreographer with the premier dance group O Tahiti E, a Heiva Tahiti judge, and a professor of Tahitian language at the university in Tahiti — will return this year as the chief judge for PCC's event. "Plus we'll have three or four local judges," he said.

Moanaura Teheiura, chief judge of the 2006 and 2007 competition, was also impressed with last year's performances. "That was my first time to this event, and the participants were great. As he addressed the crowd, he thanked all participants for paying "tribute to our great culture."

Mariteragi also announced that this year's competition — which has featured only solo dancers for several years — will include group competition on Saturday morning.

"The quality of dancing this year will probably be the best we've ever had," said Mariteragi. "All of these kids start learning at a very early age, so we expect the level of competition will be very high."

He also explained the solo competition consists of two major divisions: Tamari'i (ages 2-11) and Taure'are'a (ages 12-18). Tamari'i dancers are further divided into 0-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-11 categories; and the Taure'are'a into 12-13, 14-15 and 16-18 categories. The Group Mixed Otea competition is divided into ages 1-11 and 12-18 segments. Prizes will be awarded for each segment, as well as overall winners for each division.

"The sounds of the drums, together with the motions make Tahitian dancing very exciting," Mariteragi continued. "When your watching and hearing the beat, it's hard to just sit there without moving something — at least your hands or your feet."

He added that the PCC's Tahitian Islands will also present special cultural activities during the annual fête, including fruit carrying races (where the young men carry baskets of fruit on a pole across their shoulders), and fishing and spear throwing contests.

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