World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Te Mana o Te Ra

DANCE ORIGIN: Tahiti, French Polynesia
GENRE: Tahitian ‘Ote‘a and ‘Aparima
RA‘ATIRA PŪPŪ (DIRECTORS): Lisa and Rey Aguilar
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1998

Te Mana O Te Ra, established in 1997, is dedicated to perpetuating Tahitian dance and educating its members and people worldwide. French Polynesia has tiny islands, but a deep and wonderful history to share. Company members compete far and wide and perform in ethnic dance festivals, local activities, and private parties. The name means “Energy of the Sun,” the sun representing a constant force that gives us life, provides for us, and gives us strength to grow as individuals and as a dance company.



DANCE ORIGIN: Tahiti, French Polynesia
TITLE: Manuhere...the legend of Tetiaroa
GENRE: Tahitian ‘Ote‘a and ‘Aparima
DANCERS: Alyssa Asuncion, Lauren Chow, Taylor de los Santos, Tiana de los Santos, Tracie de los Santos, Tammy Durley, Zachary Isaac, Jenelle Jayubo, Alakoka Kailahi, Langitau Kailahi, Rozelle Laquindanum, Vicky Lew, Sarah Padrones, Mariah Salinas, Jackie Sarmiento, Tyra Sims, Melissa Sisckha, Nicole Smith
MUSICIANS: Rey Aguilar, Mirela Asuncion, Virgil Asuncion, Leia de los Santos, Mike Hamilton, Rick Isaac, Zachary Isaac, Arne Ragadio, Soane Vehematahau, Sarina Woo, Ahmad Yamato

Once, on the Tahitian island of Tetiaroa—the bird island—breathtaking birds were gliding above the ocean blue and forests green, and a boy named Vaitahi befriended a splendid bird. He named her Manuhere for her beauty and affectionate spirit, and the two became inseparable. One sad day, Manuhere fell into a deep sleep and no cure could wake her. But then the birds came to her and sang her a melody of love and friendship. When love entered her heart, Manuhere woke up, and Vaitahi and the birds rejoiced!

Manuhere is an example of a Tahitian ‘ote‘a, a pre-European Polynesian dance form with rapid hip-shaking motion and drum. Dancers show great precision and skill, stepping in sync with the drums to celebrate Tahitian unity and spirit. The piece also includes the beautiful instrumental music, “Te Mo‘a O Te Taurea”—an ‘aparima song. “‘Apa” means kiss, and “rima” means hands, and this dance honors love as the ever-powerful and healing life-force that binds us as one flock or community, everywhere, in all lands and all countries.

Tahitian elders pass down history, legend, and music through mentoring and demonstration, communicating a heritage which would be lost in the writing down. Artistic director Lisa Aguilar learned the legend of Manuhere in 2012 in Tahiti from her mentor, legendary choreographer and musician, Coco Hotahota, who is protégé of Madeleine Moua, the person credited for reviving long-suppressed traditional Tahitian dancing back in the 1950’s. The ‘aparima song was written by Coco Hotahota, and Lisa Aguilar’s choreography and presentation is a world premiere.

The instruments include Marquesan ‘ukulele and guitar; milo wood to‘ere and tahape drums; and also skin drums: pahu tupa‘i, fa‘atete, and pahu. Traditional Polynesian rhythms join influences from the Cook Island and Tuamotu Islands. Costumes and accessories are made from natural fibers and fresh greenery, natural moré hau, feathers, tapa, corn husk, raffia, nī‘iau, and mother-of-pearl/black pearl. The lovely earth tones, black accents, and green/aqua colors represent tropical plants and Tahiti’s ever-present sea.


TITLE: Vahines de Tahiti
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Lisa Aguilar assisted by Sarah Padrones and Tiana de los Santos in 2012 and Charity Offril in 2002
DANCERS: Joanaline Abria, Lisa Aguilar, Desirae Bill, Lauren Chow, Tiana de los Santos, Taylor de los Santos, Joseph Duff, Tamara Durley, Leandra Figueroa, Julia Herbert, Teresa Hollidge, Alakoka Kailahi, Victoria Lew, Alexandra Mariano, Vanessa Mariano, Angelisa Nichols, Charity Offril, Sarah Padrones, Jackie Sarmiento, Melissa Sischka, Nicole Smith
MUSICIANS: Rey Aguilar (to’ere, pahu), Virgil Asuncion (pahu tupai), Jeremiah Castillo (toere), Michael Manlapeg (to’ere), Michael Peralta (pahu tupai), Savion Prieto (fa’atete), Arne Ragadio (fa’atete), Bayani Salinas (pahu tupai), Soane Veheamatahau (to’ere), Ahmad Yamato (toere), Heneli Kailahi (pahu tupai), Joseph Duff (pahu)


Te Mana O Te RaTITLE: Varua Te Fenua (The Spirit of the Land)
GENRE: Tahitian ‘Ote‘a
Joanaline Abria, Desirae Bills, Jeremiah Castillo, Lauren Chow, Taylor de los Santos, Tiana de los Santos, Joseph Duff, Tammy Durley, Leandra Figueroa, Julia Herbert, Terri Hollidge, Zach Isaac, Alakoka Kailahi, Shennen Manaoat, Alexandra Mariano, Vanessa Mariano, Joanne Min, Angelisa Nichols, Sarah Padrones, Caesar Sabadlab, Mariah Salinas, Jackie Sarmiento, Melissa Sischka, Nicole Smith, Marie Valmores
  Rey Aguilar, Virgil Asuncion, Rick Isaac, Zach Isaac, Robbie Macareg, Michael Manlapeg, Fabian Martinez, Mike Peralta, Arne Ragadio, Jeff Raymundo, Soane Vehematahau, Ahmad Yamato


Varua Te Fenua—The Spirit of the Land, brings an environmental message from Tahiti, the pristine land of tropical green, lush mountain forests, white beaches, and crystal blue waters. Young wahine (female dancers) represent new Mother Earth, the spirit, and the ocean that surrounds Tahiti; and a young tane (male dancer) is surveyor of all this beauty, together they tell a story about the wonders of nature.

Over the centuries, Tahitian elders have never transcribed histories, legends, or dance forms. Instead, they continue to pass traditions through oral history, the direct transmission of dance and musical forms. In a similar way, says choreographer Lisa Aguilar, we should pass down our concern for the earth: “In the world of global warming we need to stop, look around, and be aware of the natural beauty that surrounds us—not destroy this richness that is right in front of us, but preserve it with pride for future generations.”

This performance is an ‘ote‘a, a traditional Tahitian form with rapid movement of hips and hand motions. It is performed with precision rhythms to fast-beating drums—the to‘ére is a slit-log drum; the pahu tupa‘i is a standing bass skin drum, called “the heartbeat of Tahiti” for its golden tone; and the tahape is the smallest, high-toned drum. The drum beats are traditional Tahitian, complimented with new rhythms from the Cook Islands and Toklelau.

Costumes are also traditional, made of materials from the land and sea, with shells, fresh greenery, natural fibers, and fine feather work. The dancers perform with bamboo, the wooden tahape, and lauhala leaves.

Lisa Aguilar created the piece for the Festival stage, with drumming sequence by Rey Aguilar. The choreography was guided and influenced by three legendary masters and historians of Tahitian dance in Tahiti−Coco Hotahota, Heikura Nui, and Makau Foster.


Title: Tani E Pahu (The Heartbeat of Tahiti)
Fa-atia (Assistant Director):
Charity Offril
Lisa Aguilar
Musical Director:
Rey Aguilar
Joanaline Abria, Monsy Agleham, Christine Astillero, Desiree Bills, Melissa Cheung, Lauren Chow, Tiana de los Santos, Joseph Duff, Chanel Durley, Tammy Durley, Tina Galande, Nadia Gutierrez, Hershel Hicks, Terri Hollidge, Olivia Isaac, Zachary Isaac, Stephanie Jung, Ala‘koka Kailahi, Joanne Kwon, Shennen Manaoat, Alexis Mariano, Vanessa Mariano, Diego Ochoa, Charity Offril, Sarah Padrones, Jill Patacsil, Chrissy Raymundo, Justin Raymundo, Sammy Raymundo, Caesar Sabadlab, Nicole Smith, Keoni Umbay, Marie Valmores, Daniel Velasco
Rey Aguilar, Virgil Asuncion, Jeremiah Castillo, Andy Gutierrez, Rick Isaac, Zachary Isaac, Heneli Kailahi, Robbie Macaraeg, Michael Manlapeg, Fabian Martinez, Arne Ragadio, Jeff Raymundo, Soane Veamatahau, Ahmad Yamato


Created specially for the Festival, Tani e Pahu is a dance about love—love that is colorful and playful, powerful and destructive, joyous, and without limits. The company begins in unison, showing the strength of the Tahitian people united. Then a partner dance displays the celebration of love between couples. The dancers wear and dance with colorful, printed pareos — decorated with the tiare, Tahiti's national flower —to highlight the many colors of love. They also wear feathers, shells, greenery, and fresh flowers flown in from the islands, bringing a bit of the tropics to our stage.

Tahitian dance movements are precisely executed and timed with the percussive music. For this performance, Musical Director Rey Aguilar researched and directed a unique drumming sequence, merging traditional Tahitian rhythms with syncopated beats from the Cook Islands. The tall standing bass skin drum, pahu tupai, "the heartbeat of Tahiti," directs the beat.


TITLE: Hina, the Moon Goddess
DIRECTORS: Lisa Aguilar and Rey Aguilar
DANCERS: Joanaline Abria, Montserrat Agleham, Lisa Aguilar, Christine Astillero, Melissa Cheung, Lauren Chow, Julia ‘Unaloto Diskin, Krystiana Duque, Chanel Durley, Tamara Durley, Tina Galande, Nicollette Guillen, Terri Hollidge, Zachary Isaac, Olivia Isaac, ‘Alakoka Kailahi, Joanne Kwon, June Kwon, Rozelle N. Laquindanum, Shennen Manaoat, Kaoru Nashiro, Charity Offril, Frezno Hokupa’a Pias, Chrissy Raymundo, Sammie Raymundo, Ana-Marie Santos, Nicole Smith, Marie Valmores, Bethalyn Villamor, Kim Williams
Musicians: Rey Aguilar, Rick Isaac, Zachary Isaac, Heneli Kailahi, Fabian Martinez, Andrew Pai, Jeff Raymundo, Courtney Tom, Soane Veamatahau, Ahmad Yamato

Hina – the Moon Goddess, pays tribute to an important figure in Tahitian lore. A legend told through the eyes of her son Hema, who beckons his mother’s spirit to enchant the community with her love, beauty, and strength. In Tahiti, it is believed that Hina, the moon goddess, lives in all women on the earth. The wisdom and beauty that women possess propels them to endure life’s passages with strength and passion.

Every aspect of the dancers’ costumes is drawn from the earth. The skirts are made of fiber from the hau (hibiscus) tree, the hip bands and headpieces from dried leaves of the pandanus (a robust, versatile flowering shrub prominent in the South Pacific), the necklaces of raffia, and other adornments are of shells and mother of pearl. The drums are carved out of the valuable wood called milo.


Chinese PAA 

dancerTITLE OF PIECE: OPUMARAMA (To Be Enlightened)
Lisa Aguilar and Charity Offril
Rey Aguilar DANCERS: Christine Astillero, Chanel Calipes, Taylor de los Santos, Tiana de los Santos, Julia Diskin, Krystiana Duque, Tina Galande, Justine Gutierrez, Terri Hollidge, Olivia Isaac, Rick Isaac, Rozelle Laquindanum, Angie Maerina, Arielle Maerina, Breanna Maestas, Jenica Maestas, Nikko Nadarisay, Charity Offril, Sarah Padrones, Regina Rabiano, Chrissy Raymundo, Jeff Raymundo, Nicole Smith, Marie Valmores, Kim Williams
: Carl Abude, Rodel Calipes, Andy Gutierrez, Tony Jong, Fabian Martinez, Freddie Nadarisay, Mark O'Neil, Justin Raymundo, Soane Vahematahau

Te Mana O Te Ra offers Opumarama, meaning "to be enlightened." This suite is a reflection of how different life experiences develop us into the individuals that we are. Experiences of love, hate, hope and suffering influence how we think, how we make decisions, and how we survive during times of crisis. Company director Lisa Aguilar believes that through dance, we can transform ourselves into wiser beings.

The dances are accompanied by a percussion ensemble, which emphasizes the new phase of drumming syncopation called, oro oro. The costumes are comprised of natural fibers, drawn from the land. The "Cook Island length" skirts, made of fiber from the hau tree, accentuate the dancers fancy foot movements. Costume accessories include all natural shells, pandanus, and feathers.

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