By Eric Ka’ahele Morales
“It’s a legacy. Something we are leaving behind … I didn’t realize it would be very popular” – Roiti Tahauri Sylva.
It was an idea for a new take on an old dance, traditional, innovational, show stopping. The year was 1967, and Roiti Tahauri Sylva, a Tahitian immigrant to Hawaii, was on stage at the Queen’s Surf in Honolulu. She had a group of performers with her, all of them wearing long, elegant dresses with fitted sleeves and ruffles, tropical flowers adorning the fabric. They were to dance in front of a large audience: tourists, locals, complete with journalists. The dance was to consist of a slow ‘aparima, done in waltz time, to the song, Tau Tamaiti Here. But before they could go on stage, Roiti was asked a simple question by the master of ceremony and co-creator of the dance, Tavana Hare Salmon: “What is the name of this dance?” After a seconds pause, she answered, “‘Ahuroa.”
|Roiti Sylva performing the 'Ahuroa at the Queen's Surf|
Meant to be performed for only that weekend, the ‘ahuroa took on a life of its own. The dance was such a success that dancers in the group as well as dancers in the audience started copying the specifics of this new style and performing them in other nearby venues, sometimes calling it an ‘ahuroa, other times an ‘ahu’purotu, or simply referring to it as a slow or formal ‘aparima, which is considered one of the four recorded surviving forms of Tahitian dance: the others being the ‘ōte‘a, hivinau, and pā‘ō‘ā.