Tahiti, French Polynesia
Thirty-four dancers mesmerize us with Vahine!, a presentation of Tahitian ʽōteʽa, a powerful, traditional art form performed to percussion and string instruments. The title means Woman! and this performance sends a message calling for women’s empowerment, equality, and support for lesbian and gender-fluid women who struggle for acceptance.
This presentation was created for our Festival by Artistic Director Lisa Aguilar, with a strong desire to voice this theme through song and dance due to personal experiences. As a teacher, she has witnessed women’s inequality and especially the difficulty for young adults to find acceptance for their true selves, and to express themselves openly. Lisa says, “The performance is a message to all, to accept others and open up our minds to the true person that lies within everyone!”
Through her dancers, Lisa passes to us her deep pride and love for Tahitian culture, history, legends, music theory, dance evolution, and philosophies. She travels frequently to Tahiti to study with mentors Coco Hotahota, Makau Foster, Lorenzo, and Tumata Robinson, renowned Ra’atiras with longstanding dance companies. Her choreography incorporates traditional Tahitian steps, influences from Cook Island dance forms, and elements of contemporary and modern dance. Drum beats are a fusion of traditional and contemporary, with some Taiko influence: Rey Aguilar leads the drummers. Costume design is by Lisa Aguilar and headpiece design by Lea Lopez. Dancers wear traditional Tahitian ʽōteʽa regalia of natural fibers, tapa cloth, shells, and feathers with orange to represent the brightness and goodness of life, and grey for life’s negative elements that can ultimately strengthen us.
Established in 1997, Te Mana O Te Ra’s goal is to perpetuate the Tahitian culture by educating dancers and audiences around the world. Members have competed and performed in festivals in Tahiti, England, Spain, local Bay Area events, Golden State Warriors and SF Giants games and private/corporate events. The name translates to Energy of The Sun, the sun representing the spiritual force that gives us life, strength, and unity to be family.
July 13 & 14
Dance Origin: Tahiti, French Polynesia
Title: Vahine! (Woman!)
Photo: RJ Muna