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The Dance of Polynesia

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Travel / Historical Documentary

The Dance of Polynesia

Polynesians were inspired by the natural sounds of the earth; the pounding of the ocean, the wind rustling the trees, the roll of thunder and the rhythm of rain. They recreated these sounds with drums, conch shells, gourds and harmonic nasal flutes. Chanting became a means of communicating with the gods, in beat with the music, and hand movements to tell the story. Their South Pacific dance developed naturally as a formal extension of common human gestures, combined with chants that grew from the strongly rhythmic, powerful beat.

Legends and folklore were retold by way of dance and song. Polynesian dance is exuberant and vibrant and has a long history of cultural significance. These dances are associated with certain events and occasions with multiple dance styles. Traditional Polynesian song and dance was inspired by the ancient gods. A female dancer was wrapped in tapa cloth, decorated with feathers, shells and mother of pearl while the male dancer was adorned with only a few feathers and a loin cloth or penis sheath.

The joy of dancing, so dear to the Polynesian heart, was one of the first to be axed by the early Europeans giving it a difficult history. This ancient art form was forced underground, along with the knowledge of how to make dance costumes from vegetable fibers, shells and flowers. But despite setbacks and restrictions to this artistic expression, dancing went on and the level of secrecy depended on the laws at the time; is testimony to its resilience.

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