4. Island Night
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Most major resorts will hold an Island Night at least once a week. This is your chance to
sample the local cuisine and enjoy Cook Islands dancing.
Cook Islands dancing is almost similar to Tahitian dancing. The difference between Cook Islands and Tahitian dancing is in the hip swaying and the feet. Women dancers hip motion must be predominantly side-to-side and they must be flat footed while doing this. Tahitian women dancers hip motion is mostly round-and-round (like a washing machine) with the heel lifted. It is a real test to remain flat footed while swaying your hips. The way to tell a good female dancer is if her shoulders remain steady while she is swaying her hips.
Shake those hips, wiggle those knees
Male dancing requires bending your knees a little and knocking them together, like you may have seen Elvis do in his movies.
The basic materials used to make dancing skirts are: long green leaves (rauti or coconut fronds), dried bark strips from the wild hibiscus tree (kiriau), pounded bark (tapa) or cotton cloth. At the waist there is normally a titi which is adorned with all kinds of shells, seeds, leaves or flowers. Apart from being a decorative item, it also adds a little weight which helps the shaking/swinging process. A lot of work goes into producing costumes, but they last many years.
Behind the dancers are the drummers, guitar/ukelele players and singers. There are
various drumming instruments used. The pate (pronounced partay) is a piece of wood
that has been hollowed out containing a slit at the top. Notice these are hit with
either one stick or two sticks depending on the type of rythmn you are trying to
produce. The different lengths, type of wood and diameter of the pate also affect
the sound. Then there are the drums which are similar to the normal metal drums that
you can buy except these are made of wood and goat hide. The huge drum tilted on its
side produces the boom boom boom sound that you will hear. A much slender drum
standing upright produces a different sound and is hit with two sticks. The hitting
sticks are held differently, more like holding an ice cream cone but with the thumb
pressed against the cone.
Anyway, its very difficult to describe, its better if you saw it. I believe that once you hear the drumbeats, you will want to get up and join the show too.
They say that Cook Islands dancing is very sensuous, you be the judge. There are a number of dance troupes performing at various hotels around the island. You can just watch the show, but there is normally a cover charge of about NZ$5 (US$2.50). Be sure to sit up front.
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