Molokai Dancers Head to Big Apple

Manutahi Tahiti scheduled to dance in Macy’s Day Parade.

Dancers from Molokai's Manutahi Tahiti will travel to New York in November to dance in the Macy's Day Parade. 

By Jennifer Smith

The story of Tahitian dance can be found in the beating of the drums, the flowing of the hands and most importantly the pumping of the hips. Molokai’s Manutahi Tahiti group will dance their story in New York’s Macy’s Day Parade next Thanksgiving, pairing near-freezing weather with Polynesian culture.

While the Tahitian dance group may have been quietly noticed here and there, they are planning on formally announcing their presence on the Friendly Isle in May with a grand opening event, according to Manutahi Tahiti kumu Kawena Alcos.

“Everyone sees us, they’ve heard about us, but they haven’t experienced us,” Alcos said. “I want people to embrace the love of Tahitian.”

Alcos began the Molokai chapter of the Oahu based Manutahi Tahiti two years ago. “I think I am the first on the island to really focus on the dance” she said.

Today Alcos teaches about 30 children and adults, ranging from four-years-old and up. The dancers meet twice a week for a couple of hours to practice.

“We train our dancers harder, to become better dancers,” she said, noting that Manutahi Tahiti focuses on traditional techniques of dancing. “For an island that has only known hula, I give the dancers credit because they have come so far.”

About ten dancers from the Molokai chapter will join Manutahi Tahiti dancers from all over the islands and the mainland to perform in the parade.

In preparation for the November event, dancers will spend the next several months learning a new routine and raising their endurance levels to walk the three-and-a-half-mile parade line. Dancers will also travel to Oahu to learn the line-up and transitions with over 100 other Manutahi Tahiti dancers. “It’s not easy, it’s a real dedication,” Alcos said.

Alcos speaks from experience; she learned Tahitian dance from Manutahi Tahiti founder Pola Terripaia, who started the group in 1990. Terripaia’s teaching focuses on the culture, history and traditional techniques of the dance, according to Alcos.

With locations on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and in Florida and Texas, Alcos said Manutahi Tahiti hopes to one day be among the biggest groups in the world.

In order to help raise money for their trip to New York, Manutahi Tahiti dancers will be holding fundraisers throughout the year. The group is selling pizza tickets for $14 until Feb. 15. After that Headshot tickets will be sold for $10, which includes a free make-up and sitting fee, and one picture.

For more information on Manutahi Tahiti visit


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