Teoraroa Molokai Showcases Tahitian Dance

By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

Color, sound and movement filled Lanikeha Center last Saturday night. To the quickening beat of the drums, Tahitian dancers and musicians of Teoraroa Molokai put on a memorable show. 

“My goal is to be able to boost the confidence of our kids,” said Teoraroa Molokai Ra’atira, or Director, Chelsea Tanaka. 

“A lot of [the kids] are shy,” said Tanaka. “They’re back there nervous, but they’re building each other up.” 

Founded in 2018, but shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic the following year, the group was back in full force Saturday night with more than 40 dancers and musicians participating. 

Tahitian dance is comprised of a quicker hip movement dominated ote’a dance and the slower aparima. Both were performed Saturday night by the all-female dance crew, ranging in ages from four to 48. 

Tanaka explained that this year’s gala was a childhood dream fulfilled for her and her sister. Having studied Tahitian dance under her mother, Tanaka started Teoraroa Molokai to raise her own daughter in the same tradition. 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

Now, Tanaka watches proudly as her daughter and others continue in the shared legacy of dance. 

“You can see how proud they are…and they put that pride into the dance,” said Tanaka. 

While the night was a celebration of program success, Tanaka shared a deeper emotion as well. 

“Tonight is really special and a little emotional for me,” she said. 

Having recently lost her father, Tanaka alluded to the magnitude of the moment for her. 

“Kind of crying, kind of happy, kind of just amazed,” said Tanaka. 

The gala fundraiser was the first such event for Teoraroa Molokai, the only pupu ‘ori Tahitian dance and music school on-island. Proceeds from the community event went towards funding program costs like costumes, instruments and travel expenses. Teoraroa Molokai is the first Molokai group to be invited to the Farereiraa i Tahiti, a celebration of Tahitian culture taking place in Tahiti itself this July. Some of the older girls in the group will also be traveling to San Jose, California for a Tahiti Fete competition, also in July.

Teoraroa Molokai plans to make the gala an annual event.

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.


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