By Danielle Korzhenyak
When picturing Tahiti, people often think of endless beaches, crystal blue waters, and relaxation at its finest. Yet, there is also the widely famous cultural dance known as Tahitian dancing. The traditional dance stems from the Windward group of French Polynesian islands.
The ‘ote’a is one of Tahiti’s most famous traditional dances where the dancers stand in certain positions and rows to create a figure. Tahitian dancing is easily recognized by its fast hip-shaking and grass skirts, yet it is often confused with the Hawaiian hula, which focuses more on hand gesturing and a slower tempo to convey a story through the choreography.
In pre-European times, the ‘te’a was seen as a male dance only. Nowadays, the ‘ote’a can be danced by men, women, or both genders.
The types of drums, to’ere, used are made of a log of wood and use one or two sticks and have a faster beat. Another type of instrument used is the pahu, an ancient Tahitian standing drum that is covered with shark skin and played by the hands or sticks. Or it can be the pahu, the ancient Tahitian standing drum covered with a shark skin and struck by the hands or with sticks and has a slower beat.
The dances are mostly gestures reenacting typical things you would see in everyday life. For men, the dances may represent war or sailing, but for women, the themes are closer to home or nature as well. The costumes are extremely elaborate, consisting of long “grass” skirts and tassels accentuating the hip motion.
The costumes may also be accessorized with headpieces and are usually color coordinated as well.
Although the ‘ote’a is particularly known in the Polynesian islands, it has a small place in Granada Hills as well at the Aloha Hula Dance Studio, located on Chatsworth Street and Zelzah Avenue.
The director and head dance instructor, Lyn- Del Laua’e Pedersen has been dancing on and off since she was five years old and has been a professional dancer for over 20 years.
As a child, she credits most of her learning of the Tahitian style dancing to her family. The studio is a family based studio, with members stemming from young children to older adults. The studio centers around sharing and learning the styles of dances while maintaining a level of fun and positive energy.