You are currently viewing Traditional Dance: Bora Bora, Samoa, and Fiji

Traditional Dance: Bora Bora, Samoa, and Fiji

Traditional dance in Polynesia is a captivating expression of the rich cultural heritage of the islands. From the storytelling dances of Bora Bora to the fire knife dances of Samoa and the legendary Meke of Fiji, these performances offer a glimpse into the vibrant traditions that have been passed down through generations. Each dance is a unique blend of rhythm, movement, and storytelling, reflecting the history, beliefs, and values of the Polynesian people.

Key Takeaways

  • Traditional dance is an integral part of Polynesian culture, serving as a medium for storytelling and preserving history.
  • Each island has its unique dance forms, such as the Otea in Bora Bora, Taualuga in Samoa, and Meke in Fiji, each with its distinct style and significance.
  • Dance performances are often accompanied by traditional music and instruments, enhancing the cultural experience.
  • Costumes play a crucial role in these dances, with each element having specific meanings and connections to the island’s heritage.
  • The influence of tourism has led to both the preservation and evolution of traditional dance, blending contemporary styles with ancient traditions.

The Enchanting Dances of Bora Bora

Bora Bora, a jewel in the South Pacific, is not only known for its stunning landscapes but also for its rich cultural heritage, especially its traditional dances. These dances are a vibrant expression of the island’s history, legends, and daily life, performed with grace and energy that captivate audiences.

Otea: The Storytelling Dance

Otea is a traditional dance that is deeply rooted in the storytelling traditions of Bora Bora. Dancers, often adorned in elaborate costumes, use rapid hip movements and hand gestures to narrate tales of ancient gods, warriors, and love stories. This dance is a mesmerizing display of coordination and rhythm, often performed during cultural festivals and special events.

Aparima: Fast-Paced Rhythms

Aparima is characterized by its fast-paced rhythms and lively movements. Dancers use their hands to mimic everyday activities, creating a visual narrative that is both engaging and entertaining. The dance is usually accompanied by traditional music, adding to the overall vibrancy of the performance. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Bora Bora, offering a glimpse into the island’s dynamic cultural scene.

Pa’o’a: The Sensual Circle Dance

Pa’o’a is a sensual dance performed in a circle, symbolizing unity and community. The movements are slow and deliberate, focusing on the fluidity of the hips and the grace of the arms. This dance is often performed during intimate gatherings and is a beautiful representation of the island’s close-knit community. Experiencing a Pa’o’a dance is like stepping into a different world, where tradition and emotion blend seamlessly.

Experiencing Bora Bora’s traditional dances is a cultural journey that offers a deeper understanding of the island’s heritage. From the storytelling of Otea to the lively rhythms of Aparima and the sensual movements of Pa’o’a, each dance provides a unique window into the soul of Bora Bora.

Samoan Dance: A Cultural Expression

traditional Samoan dance in cultural attire, Bora Bora and Fiji elements

Samoan dance is a vibrant and integral part of the island’s cultural heritage, often regarded as a type of poetry and common language. The movements in these dances are either graceful or comic, accompanied by colorful costumes and rhythmic beats. Since early Samoan people did not have a known written language until the 1700s, histories were recorded through oral traditions, like singing and chanting, and shared through expressive dance. Dance is an essential part of spirit and life in Samoa.

Fiji’s Traditional Dance and Music

Fiji’s traditional dance and music are a vibrant tapestry of cultural expression, encapsulating the heart and soul of the island’s rich heritage. An evening spent immersed in this cultural entertainment is not just a spectacle for the senses but a journey through the myths, legends, and communal spirit that have shaped Fijian society. Under the open sky, as the sun dips below the horizon, the rhythmic beats and graceful movements tell stories of old, while the taste of traditional cuisine adds another layer to the experience.

Cultural Significance of Dance in Polynesia

Dance as Oral Tradition

Dance in Polynesia is more than just a form of entertainment; it is a vibrant tapestry of culture that reflects history and community values. Since early Tahitian indigenous people did not have a known written language until the 1700s, histories were recorded through oral traditions, like singing and chanting, and shared through expressive dance. This practice allowed Polynesians to connect with their ancestors and the land, preserving their cultural identity through generations.

Costumes and Their Meanings

The costumes worn during traditional dances are not merely decorative but hold deep cultural significance. Each element, from the materials used to the colors and designs, tells a story. For instance, the use of natural materials like leaves, shells, and feathers often symbolizes a connection to nature and the environment. These costumes are meticulously crafted to reflect the dancer’s role and the story being told, making them an integral part of the performance.

Music and Instruments in Dance

Music and instruments play a crucial role in Polynesian dance, providing the rhythmic foundation and enhancing the storytelling aspect. Traditional instruments like the pahu (drum) and the ukulele are commonly used. The beats and melodies guide the dancers’ movements, creating a harmonious blend of sound and motion that captivates audiences. This musical accompaniment is essential in conveying the emotions and themes of the dance, making it a powerful tool for cultural expression.

Dance in Polynesia is not just a performance; it is a profound expression of identity and heritage, deeply rooted in the community’s way of life.

Experiencing Dance Performances in Bora Bora, Samoa, and Fiji

Best Venues for Traditional Dance

To truly experience the captivating world of traditional Polynesian dance, it’s essential to know the best venues. In Bora Bora, the Tahiti Dance Show is a must-see, offering a deep dive into the rich history and cultural significance of Tahitian dance. Samoa’s Teuila Festival is another highlight, showcasing the best of Samoan dance and culture. In Fiji, the Fiji Culture Village provides an immersive experience where visitors can enjoy traditional dances amidst a beautiful and unique setting.

Tips for Enjoying Performances

  1. Check performance schedules in advance to ensure availability.
  2. Consider combining the dance show with a tour of local art galleries.
  3. Reserve time for a meal at one of the local restaurants to complete the experience.
  4. Dress comfortably and embrace local cuisine to fully enjoy the show.
  5. Learn about Polynesian culture and traditions to enhance your appreciation of the performances.

Cultural Etiquette for Visitors

When attending traditional dance performances, it’s important to respect local customs and etiquette. Always ask for permission before taking photos or videos. Dress modestly and be mindful of your behavior during the performances. Engaging with the performers and locals respectfully will enrich your experience and provide a deeper connection to the culture.

Remember to explore the vibrant nightlife and cultural festivals in these regions, and perhaps even indulge in stargazing on remote beaches or a seafood feast, to fully immerse yourself in the South Pacific Islands.

The Evolution of Traditional Dance in Modern Times

Influence of Tourism on Dance

Tourism has played a significant role in the evolution of traditional dance in Polynesia. The demand for cultural performances has led to the incorporation of modern elements into traditional dances. Fluorescent colors and LED lighting are now often combined with traditional features like the usage of traditional instruments and costumes. This fusion creates a unique performance that highlights the richness of Polynesian culture while appealing to a global audience.

Preservation Efforts by Local Communities

Despite the influence of modernization, local communities are actively working to preserve their traditional dances. Organizations like Motu Haka o Te Fenua Enata in the Marquesas Islands are dedicated to safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage. These efforts include organizing festivals and educational programs to ensure that younger generations understand and appreciate their cultural roots.

Fusion of Traditional and Contemporary Styles

The choreography and attire of contemporary Polynesian dance often reflect a blend of traditional and modern influences. For instance, traditional dance performances may now include elements of European dance forms, such as ballroom dance techniques. This fusion has led to the emergence of new, hybrid dance styles that are both innovative and deeply rooted in Polynesian traditions.

The evolution of traditional dance in Polynesia is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its people. By blending the old with the new, they have created a vibrant cultural expression that continues to thrive in the modern world.

Dance Festivals and Events in Polynesia

Heiva i Bora Bora: A Celebration of Culture

The Heiva i Bora Bora is one of the most anticipated cultural events in French Polynesia. This festival, held annually in July, showcases the rich heritage of the islands through traditional dance, music, and sports. Visitors can explore Polynesian culture through festivals, cuisine, and archaeological sites in the South Pacific islands. Highlights include the Heiva festival in Tahiti and traditional Polynesian dishes like ‘lovo’ and ‘lu pulu’. The event is a vibrant display of Polynesian pride and offers a unique opportunity to witness the islands’ cultural traditions firsthand.

Teuila Festival in Samoa

Held every September, the Teuila Festival in Samoa is a week-long celebration of Samoan culture. The festival features traditional dance performances, fire knife dancing, and various cultural demonstrations. It is a time when the community comes together to celebrate their heritage and share it with visitors. The Teuila Festival is a must-see for anyone interested in experiencing the heart of Samoan culture.

Fiji Day Celebrations

Fiji Day, celebrated on October 10th, marks the country’s independence from British colonial rule. The celebrations include traditional Fijian dances, music, and ceremonies that reflect the nation’s diverse cultural heritage. The event is a significant occasion for Fijians and offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture. From traditional Meke dances to the rhythmic beats of the Lali drum, Fiji Day is a vibrant celebration of the nation’s identity.

The festivals of French Polynesia: a calendar of cultural celebrations. Explore vibrant cultural celebrations in French Polynesia’s stunning landscapes, from Papeete to remote atolls, showcasing dances, crafts, and heritage.

Experience the vibrant culture of Polynesia through its mesmerizing dance festivals and events. From the rhythmic beats of Tahiti to the traditional performances in Samoa, there’s something for every dance enthusiast. Don’t miss out on these unforgettable experiences. Visit our website to learn more and plan your next adventure!


The traditional dances of Bora Bora, Samoa, and Fiji offer a captivating glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of the South Pacific. Each dance, with its unique movements, rhythms, and stories, serves as a living testament to the history, beliefs, and communal values of these island communities. From the graceful and poetic routines of Samoa to the vibrant and expressive performances in Fiji, and the deeply spiritual dances of Bora Bora, these art forms continue to thrive, preserving the heritage and identity of their people. As globalization continues to influence cultures worldwide, the traditional dances of these islands remain a vital link to the past, offering both locals and visitors a profound connection to the spirit and traditions of the South Pacific.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of the Otea dance in Bora Bora?

The Otea dance in Bora Bora is a traditional storytelling dance where dancers move their hips to the beat of wooden drums, conveying stories or expressing themes.

How is the Taualuga dance performed in Samoa?

The Taualuga dance is a graceful and prestigious dance often reserved as the grand finale for celebrations. It is set to simple drum beats and usually performed by young, single dancers in extravagant handsewn costumes with beadwork.

What is the Meke dance in Fiji?

The Meke dance in Fiji is a traditional dance that combines storytelling and artistry. It often takes place in open-air theatres against natural backdrops, showcasing the legends and myths of Fijian culture.

Are there any specific venues in Bora Bora, Samoa, and Fiji for experiencing traditional dance performances?

Yes, there are specific venues in Bora Bora, Samoa, and Fiji where visitors can experience traditional dance performances. These performances are often held in cultural centers, resorts, and during festivals.

How has tourism influenced traditional dance in Polynesia?

Tourism has influenced traditional dance in Polynesia by increasing its popularity and exposure. However, it has also led to efforts to preserve the authenticity of these dances through community initiatives and fusion with contemporary styles.

What should visitors know about cultural etiquette when attending dance performances in Polynesia?

Visitors should be respectful and attentive during dance performances. It is important to dress modestly, avoid interrupting the performance, and show appreciation through applause. Taking photos may be allowed, but it is best to ask for permission first.