Friday, November 27, 2015

The tauʻolunga is a traditional Tongan dance comparable with some Hawaiian hula or the Tahitian ʻaparima.

The tauʻolunga is a dance for virgins, especially for them to show off at their wedding day. But it can be danced at any special occasion. Often it is performed by a small group of girls, up to 10 or so. It is rare for a married, or any older woman to dance it. It is even rarer, but not impossible, to be performed by men. However, men can assist the dancing girl by mimicking her movements in an exaggerated and clownesque way, which is supposed to make her beauty more striking. The assistance of older women is usually limited to only handclaps on the rhythm of the music. This role is called the tuʻulafale.

It is usual for a girl to start the dance, then parents, cousins, family members or friends come on the stage to put money notes on her oiled skin, and then join her in the tuʻulafale. The prize-money (fakapale) is a reward for the girl, unless, as often is the case, the dance is performed as part of a fundraising.

The tauʻolunga mainly consists of a series of hand movements, which interpret the meaning of the selected song. However, most of the movements are so stylized that only adepts will understand them. Many of the typical gestures (haka) are standardized and have their own name. Also important is the movement of the head. The head with the eyes should follow the hands on important movements, otherwise they are to be directed to the public. The eyes are never to glance away. From time to time, little nods within one beat (teki) or two beats (kalo) must be made with the head. The girl must smile all the time.

The movements of the body and the legs are less important. They have to follow hands and head. Shaking the hips, as elsewhere in Polynesia, is forbidden. Most of the time the legs are standing still, knees must be together and bent (taulalo). Some small steps, never large, or a turn around can be performed. Overall, the girl’s movements should be supple and soft, as should be her whole body.

A unique feature of any Tongan dance, not found elsewhere in Polynesia, is the rotational movements of the hands and wrists in many of the haka.

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