Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dancing with the Hips

Last weekend I attended a Folk Festival which included, besides styles I am more familiar with Hawaiian and Tahitian dancers. While they are, of course, part of the same family, there are definite differences.
Hula dancer
Hawaiian dancing is hula dancing. Although the leader of the hula troop assured us that men hula dance too, and although there were men in the troop, the style is a woman's style. It features gentle swaying of the hips, something women are better built for than men. Women ripple their hands as they make gestures. Men hold their hands straight, which makes men's hula look like a toned-down version of the women's. And then there are the various hand gestures in which women hold their hands over the "mountains" with their finger tips in the "valley." Men have neither "mountains" nor a "valley," which makes clear who this style of dance is intended for. (Presumbably men have some sort of war dance, but they didn't get into that).
Tahitian dancers
Male Tahitian dancers
Tahitian dancing, though related, is different, particularly, more fast and furious. Tahitian dancers move their hips fast and shimmy all the way down to the ground. Although there were no men in the Tahitian group, the troop assured us that male styles are a variation on the theme -- less emphasis on the hips, perhaps, than women, but more aggressive, with plenty of forward thrusting, and no doubt that this is a war dance. (One member's comment was that you expect them to take your head off).

Tahitian dancing is definitely more strenuous. The leader of the Hawaiian troop was rather on the plump side; the Tahitian dancers were all lean. And it did not take long to find out why. They lead us through a few basis Tahitian moves and before long we could feel the burn. One of them commented that she lost 30 pounds.

Tahitian dancing is also more athletic than another style of dancing that involves a lot of hip movement -- belly dancing. I have seen many belly dancers with plenty of belly. Not so the Tahitian dancers.

Belly dancers. They aren't always thin, and some have quite a bit of belly.

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