COOK ISLANDS DANCE

Cook Islands Song and Dance is very much at the heart of the culture of the Cook Islands. The dances of the Cook islands are renowned throughout Polynesia for their expression and sensuality. Cook Islands dancing dates back thousands of years with many of the dances being based on ancient stories - stories that tell a tale of love or adventure and in some cases both. The gifts of music, song and dance play a large part in the culture of the Cook Islands and native children begin to dance as soon as they can walk.  Indeed their traditions are sacred to the people of the Cook Islands and the tradition of the dance is one that will continue to be passed on from one generation to the next.

         

Each of the 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands has its own special dances and these are practised assiduously from early childhood. Each island has a slightly different dancing technique which makes their performances unique.

In general, the women dance with a swaying hip movement that slowly goes from side to side. They dance with flat feet - which is hard to do while swaying the hips - and the shoulders should be kept absolutely still. In fact, girls and young women are judged on how still they keep their shoulders while dancing - the stiller they are the better dancer they are considered to be.

 

The men meanwhile dance with slightly bent knees, which they knock together in time with the drum beat. They also have a grinding movement and overall their dance is very jerky when compared to the smooth swaying of the women. The two dances are completely opposite but when they are performed together they produce a dance which is simply described as spellbinding. 

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Despite not being as well known as the Hawaiian hula and the Tahitian tamuré, the Cook Island's traditional hura is far more sensual and fierce, demonstrating grace, art and skill in song and dance. The dancers wear traditional costumes, comprising skirts, which are worn by both men and women, made from cotton material or bark cloth covered with grass, long green leaves and dried bark strips. These are often adorned with shells, seeds, bright leaves and colourful flowers.

The headdresses are made from bright flowers and are very ornamental. They are easily the most prominent part of the costume, and the men regularly have feathers attached for added height. The costumes can take months to make, however once made they can last for years.

Cook Island dancing is always accompanied by music and, on most occasions, there are singers as well. The singers tell traditional tales in the native language, while the drummers and other musicians accompany them with a rhythmic beating of their drums. The music is described as being hypnotic and when combined with the swaying dancers and the general atmosphere, Cook Island dancing really is something very special.

 

Click here: 'Cook Islands Music' for History of Cook Islands Music

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 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com  -- Rev. 12th July 2012)