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Cultural Festivals
Polynesian Cultural Center Hosts 14th Annual Te Mahana Hiroa O Tahiti

Top Tahitian Dancers Showcased at Cultural Festival in July

The vibrant and spirited culture, music and dance of Tahiti were on display during the 14th annual Te Mahana Hiroa O Tahiti fete (festival) at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) on July 10, 12, and 13. This year, the cultural celebration featured a Tamure marathon for the first time in the festival’s history, followed by two days of Tahitian dance competition.

Attracting visitors and locals alike, this crowd-pleasing festival featured tamarii (youth) and taurearea (adults) dancers from around the island competing in solo and group divisions.

“This annual fete provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase the thrilling talents of different skill levels ranging from the eager-to-learn tamarii to experienced taurearea,” said Logo Apelu, PCC’s chief operating officer. “It is a joy to see both tane (male) and vahine (female) performers display their many artistic talents and skills, but more importantly, to see their passion for Tahitian culture come alive on stage.”

New to the fete this year was a three-hour Tamure marathon. The fun and interactive event introduced beginners to the basic steps and movements of traditional Tahitian dances. The workshops held one after the other were led by expert instructors, with all participants receiving a t-shirt.

The invitational division held on Friday, July 12 was one of the most anticipated components of the festival. Only the most skilled and graceful dancers, including many who have won the title of “Best Tahitian Solo Dancer” in other major heiva (celebration of Tahitian culture) nationwide, were invited to compete individually.

“Our Te Mahana Hiroa O Tahiti festival is timed each year to coincide with the annual Heiva, or celebration of Tahitian culture, held in Papeete, Tahiti,” added Apelu. “We are proud to have hosted this festival for 14 years as it honors our mission of preserving the cultures of Polynesia.”

The final day of the festival featured tamarii (children) group performances in the otea and aparima styles of dance and solo otea performances. The otea is the best-known Tahitian style of dance where fast, rhythmic hip movements are synchronized to the rapid beats of wooden toere (long wooden drums with a hollowed slit) and other drums. The aparima, literally translated as “kiss of the hands,” is performed to music, including the Tahitian ukulele, and uses hand motions to tell a story similar to the Hawaiian hula.

Competitors in each category were judged on several criteria including skill, grace and speed during the otea as well as their costumes, coordination and timing of the dance with the drumming, and the overall presentation of their performance. Tane, or male dancers were also judged on their paoti – the masculine style of ori Tahiti (Tahitian dance) that features sharp scissor-like movements of the legs.  For more information visit