It's kind of sad to think that the Polynesian Cultural Center's evening show Horizons is no more. The last show was Thursday, July 23, 2009. Countless students have taken part in the production over the past 14 years. It was the longest running evening show in the Center's history. As one of those who took part in the opening and production run of the new show, it is bitter sweet to say the least. Looking at the final shows and comparing them to the first few years, there are many, many differences.
Actually the last few years are completely different from the past. It's as if they were actually two different shows. Many numbers were cut or replaced and dance costumes changed. I think the Hawaii, Fiji and Maori probably saw the most changes. Remember the malo's for the men in Hawaii or the bow ties (did I just say bow ties)? How about the Kava ceremony in Fiji? And the Maori section just had a different feel all together. Not that either is better, just different.
Starting the Horizons show right after the last show of Mana! The Spirit of our People was a test and challenge for the Center. I can remember Newell Dayley (the original producer) working behind the scenes with the section dance instructors. He got the whole production rolling and mapped out what needed to be done to make the transition. Differences in opinion and a cool audience response led to a quick learning curve once the show finally opened, behind schedule (as Ha-The Breathe of Life has also proven and just about every other Center production) and including countless late night rehearsals. He was caught between management and culture. The original Horizons had a dramatic take similar to Polynesian Odyssey (the only IMAX production the Center has ever produced). Dramatic lighting, smoke and water effects enhanced the action on stage sometimes leading to overshadowing the culture. The unrealistic pressure to make a spectacularly better show than Mana! probably contributed to the problems that the show had in the beginning.
The $2 million dollar start up costs for the costumes, stage modifications, new lighting and rehearsal and development were looking to be a financial money pit. With a new producer came a whole new set of costumes, music and production numbers. A new opening sequence and the dropping of the approach to the theme also took place. It was an entirely new show. Enter Horizons - Where the Sea Meets the Sky 2.0
In any event, the heart and soul of any of the shows I was involved with was the section instructors, assistants and theater managers (Delsa Moe, Raymond Mariteragi, Eti Eves, Billy Tenney and David Tiave). I can't begin to let them know how much they made the show what it was and for teaching not only the dances, but the culture. Nikki Wallace (Maori), Keith Awai (Hawaii), Vai Fa'amaligi (Samoa), Regina Pasi (Tahiti), Fasi Tovo (Tonga), and Joe Tulele (Fiji). I have missed seeing these uncles and aunties and their influence, knowledge of the culture, encouragement and discipline. Auntie Nikki and Auntie Vai have sadly since passed away. Sometimes I have a chance to catch up with Regina and Keith but there are times I miss being backstage and being in that environment. It's an experience that if you have the opportunity, you should not miss.
Flash forward 6 months later. A new producer a new approach. Tommy Taurima, a New Zealand Maori dance group producer took the reigns. Known probably most for his song - Terina, Uncle Tommy was a larger than life character, both physically and figuratively. I do not know where he is, but I suspect he is back in New Zealand. He remade the show and let the instructors do what they do best - teach and choreograph. The Horizons 2.0 production even had his signature song - Terina in the Maori section.
Sadly, Horizons marked the change from relying on the instructors behind the scenes. After the changes, the instructors were moved back to the island villages. Even though we had the theater managers and section assistants, there was something definitely missing. I'll just leave it at that.
Flash forward to 2009 - Horizons 3.0+. Is it me or does it seem that there are less dancers? Budget cutbacks (probably because of the $3 million price tag for the new show), I assume. A new generation of dancers has taken the stage. Thinking that some of these dancers are my friends kids is kind of depressing. Am I that old? After countless performances, dancers, ushers, tech crews, seamstresses, and support staff, Horizons has finally set for the last time at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I can only hope that those involved in the new show will be able to enjoy their time there as much as I did.
I couldn't close without thinking and writing about some of the memorable moments I had.
- Opening night (Horizons 1.0) I hit my eyebrow while swinging my patu. At least I think it was my patu and not the guy next to me. Came backstage after the number and couldn't see because the blood was coming down over my eye.
- Eating fresh hot French bread and Samoan coco back stage on cold and rainy nights.
- Cast meetings
- Sitting on the top of the mountain waiting to light the torches and watching the stars and talking with the guys.
- Haka farewells
- Dancing in the rain
- Termite nights (try not to sing or open your mouth)
- Listening to Lamar (MC)
- Taking a break in the (air conditioned) instructors office
- Forgetting that the line up switched and I was supposed to be in the Hau'ula tunnel instead of the Kahuku tunnel.
- Getting haircuts backstage
- Getting fingers smashed with the kala'au sticks
- Getting hit by errant titi torea sticks (from 2 girls over!)
- The opening water curtain and the audience oooohing and aaaahing
- Double shows (I hear they haven't had them for quite awhile, but we had them often when I was there)