Te Mana o Te Ra
NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: Tahiti, French Polynesia
GENRE: Tahitian ‘Ōte‘a and ‘Aparima
RA‘ATIRA PŪPŪ (DIRECTOR): Lisa Aguilar
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1998
Established in 1997, Te Mana O Te Ra has a mission to share and teach the genres of Tahiti, perpetuating culture in the most authentic way possible and educating not only themselves but many people worldwide. Members of this company have competed far and wide, performed in dance festivals, local activities, and at Golden State Warriors and SF Giants games. The name means “energy of the sun.” for the force that provides for us, gives us life, strength and unity—to be family.
DANCE ORIGIN: Tahiti, French Polynesia
TITLE: Te Tiaturiraʻa—Believe!
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Lisa Aguilar
DANCERS: Lisa Aguilar, Nikki Arenal, Alyssa Asuncion, Desirae Bill, Ina Catap, Krystle Cocadiz, Tiana Dolorfino, Tamara Durley, Leandra Figueroa, Alakoka Kailahi, Leyla Lopez, Meaghan McVeigh, Charity Offril, Vanessa Padrones, Chrissy Raymundo, Jacqueline Reyes, Jo-Anmarie Ricasata, Mariah Salinas, Nicole Smith, Nicole VanHatten
MUSICIANS: Rey Aguilar (toere, pahu, djembe, bamboo), Virgil Asuncion (toere, pahu tupai), Leia delos Santos (fa‘atete, bamboo, pahu tupai), Jackie Guerrero (toere, djembe, bamboo), Andy Gutierrez (pahu tupai, bamboo), Rick Isaac (pahu), Zachary Isaac (tahape, bamboo), Frank Lopez (pahu tupai), Arne Ragadio (fa‘atete, bamboo), Jeffrey Raymundo (pahu), Soane Veamatahau (fa‘atete, bamboo), Ahmad Yamato (pahu)
Te Mana O Te Ra responds to a year of turmoil, chaos, and uncertainty with Te Tiaturiraʻa—Believe! The dance form is the Tahitian ʻōʻtea from French Polynesia, where everything is expressed through dance, from love to political protest.
The dancers open with unsmiling gestures of disappointment and disdain for what is happening in the world today. But the theme of awareness, confidence, and strength soon shines within the sequence. “Let us believe,” say the dancers, “and make this world a better place. The spiritual strength within can help us achieve anything!”
Within this world, within ourselves, these are our hopes:
- to be loved and respected for who we are
- for peace and harmony in life and the world
- for our lives to be wholesome and good for everyone
- to be the best we can be for ourselves and for others
- to be thankful for life and everything given
- for strength to survive challenges put before us
Tahitian dance requires great stamina, with a focus on posture, upper body control, bent knees, flat feet, and expression of story. The circular hip movement faʻarapu is profound and central to the form, performed continuously while standing or moving within the choreography. Rhythms from Cook Islands and Tokelau join old Tahitian beats. Rey Aguilar leads the percussion, with musicians on bamboo, toere and tahape drums of milo wood, and skin drums, including the standing pahu tapai, the “heartbeat of Tahiti.” The music is traditionally performed in the round so the sounds rise as one, and dancers synchronize hip movements and footwork precisely.
Tahitian elders honor their heritage by passing on history, music, and dance only through demonstration. Raʻatira Pūpū (Director) Lisa Aguilar has returned to Tahiti annually for nearly forty years to study with Coco Hotahota, Makau Foster, and Lorenzo Schmidt. Her Believe choreography includes the dancing style from the Cook Islands where dancers perform up on their toes. The costumes are traditional—comprised of shells, natural fibers, feathers,
greenery, and flowers.
DANCE ORIGIN: Tahiti, French Polynesia
TITLE: Manuhere...the legend of Tetiaroa
GENRE: Tahitian ‘Ote‘a and ‘Aparima
RA‘ATIRA PŪPŪ (DIRECTOR) AND CHOREOGRAPHER: Lisa Aguilar
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
RA‘ATIRA PUPU (DIRECTORS): Lisa & Rey Aguilar
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Rey Aguilar
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
TITLE: Varua Te Fenua (The Spirit of the Land)
GENRE: Tahitian ‘Ote‘a
CHOREOGRAPHER: Lisa Aguilar
DANCERS: 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
CHOREOGRAPHER: Lisa Aguilar
Musical Director: Rey Aguilar
Dancers: 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
Musicians: 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.
TITLE OF PIECE: OPUMARAMA (To Be Enlightened)
CHOREOGRAPHY: Lisa Aguilar and Charity
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Rey Aguilar
DANCERS: Christine Astillero, Chanel Calipes,
de los Santos, Tiana de los Santos, Julia Diskin, Krystiana
Tina Galande, Justine Gutierrez, Terri Hollidge, Olivia Isaac,
Isaac, Rozelle Laquindanum, Angie Maerina, Arielle Maerina,
Maestas, Jenica Maestas, Nikko Nadarisay, Charity Offril, Sarah
Regina Rabiano, Chrissy Raymundo, Jeff Raymundo, Nicole Smith,
Valmores, Kim Williams
MUSICIANS: Carl Abude, Rodel Calipes, Andy Gutierrez, Tony Jong,
Martinez, Freddie Nadarisay, Mark O'Neil, Justin Raymundo, Soane
Te Mana O Te Ra offers Opumarama, meaning "to be
suite is a reflection of how different life experiences
into the individuals that we are. Experiences of love, hate,
suffering influence how we think, how we make decisions, and how
survive during times of crisis. Company director Lisa Aguilar
that through dance, we can transform ourselves into wiser
The dances are accompanied by a percussion ensemble, which
the new phase of drumming syncopation called, oro oro. The
are comprised of natural fibers, drawn from the land. The
Island length" skirts, made of fiber from the hau tree,
the dancers fancy foot movements. Costume accessories include
shells, pandanus, and
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