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Sunday, 25th September  2022 1:53:am

A big part of the Aitutaki culture is expressed through dancing, with graceful movements to the sound of the band singing harmonious lyrics depicting their happy life. Or it can be done to the beating of drums, made from hollowed out parts of trees and often covered with goat skins.

Cook Islands dancing is an existing talent passed down from generation to generation, encouraged and developed from a young age. One can see 4 year old girls or boys as well as teenagers and grown up ladies, swinging their hips to the rhythms of traditional songs from long, long ago,

The combination of music and rhythm and performances is eternal, as they rouse memories of their history and culture, therefore keeping the past alive now and in the future. 

Get ready to be enthralled by the singing, the movements and dancing all done in unison by our dancers. Or see the energetic male dancers move to the enthralling slow and fast beats of their log drums. Actions and movements of the body interlink with the pace of the drums, forever changing, never ceasing.

Many of the drums, instruments and costumes are made from natural plants, trees, flowers and sea shells, these being customary items in our Cook Islands culture.                      

Take for instance the swinging Hula-skirts which can be a plain crème or dyed in different colours. The base material to manufacture these can be found in the rain forests of Aitutaki where the wild Hibiscus (Au) grows in profusion.

dancerAuthor’s daughter Dorisse TschanThe job of cutting branches and stripping the bark off them is mainly done by the ladies.   The bark is then bundled up and taken to the lagoon where these bundles of Hibiscus bark are kept in the saltwater for the best part of two weeks. This will change the colour of the bark to an uniform beige. After that, the bundles are hung up in the air to dry before the strips of bark are worked into these wonderful hula skirts which will eventually swing to the rhythm of the hips of the dancer.

Or you might wonder about the brassieres of coconut shells the dancers wear. These shells used to be fruits of the coconut tree before the nuts were husked, broken in half and the white flesh then grated to provide coconut milk. After the milk has been squeezed out of the flesh, to be eaten with our raw fish or taro, it is then fed to the chickens. The shells are carefully cleaned and will eventually re-surface as part of a coconut shell brassiere on one of our graceful dancers.

So next time you see these cultural dancers in action, give a thought to the fact that there is quite some work involved in getting their costumes ready for the display of our dancing.


Aitutaki Lagoon