A Taste Of Tahitian Dance, Culture

Every year, on the first weekend in August, an international Tahitian dance competition happens for two days at Kapaa Beach Park. The signature staccato sounds of Tahitian drums fill the grassy beachfront lawn as dancers from throughout Hawaii, the Mainland and Japan compete for international recognition.

Heiva I Kauai (pronounced hey vah e Kauai) is an international Tahitian dance and drumming competition, which includes solo and group competitors, multicultural dancing, and singing.

Tahitian dance is fast and seductive while hula, born in the Hawaiian Islands, is soft and sensuous. Both forms of dance will be present at the festival and those competing in the Tahitian competition will be dressed in authentic, elaborate costumes.

Tepairu Manea, founder of Heiva I Kauai, is a master drum maker. He will perform drumming demonstrations, and his drums, along with Tahitian jewelry, clothing, crafts and Polynesian carvings, will be for sale over the weekend. Six vendors will sell food at $8 a plate.

“Our group is selling pork, peas and pimentos; kalua pork and cabbage, and pork and chicken laulau,” says Olinda Higashi, who has been the food booth manager for Heiva I Kauai since it began 12 years ago. “You pick one of those and you get rice and salad with it.”

Higashi’s food booth is named Team Hulali because three years ago her granddaughter Hulali was diagnosed with two brain tumors and one eye tumor. Proceeds from the festival go toward her medical bills.

“Hulali is a very special girl who won’t miss church,” says Higashi. “The kids pray for each other when one of them is sick, and for Hulali when she goes to Oahu for treatment. They also sing in church and afterwards, Hulali sings in the car on the way home.”

Team Family & Friends for Friends & Family is led by Tweety Juarez Kaluahine. Her husband Vance had colon cancer and was the first to use the radiation machine at Wilcox Hospital. Their booth will offer poke bowls, fried akule, chicken Hekka and beef stew. This is the second year they have participated, and proceeds enable the family to generate colon cancer awareness as well as help pay their medical bills. You can pre-order lunch tickets for Kaluahine’s booth by calling 639-2818.

Joanne Diaz will be participating for the first time this year. Her booth will offer three choices: Tri-Tip plate lunch sandwich; ribs with corn, and chili with rice and a green salad.

Gingbua Thai Restaurant (located in the Harbor Mall) is also participating for the first time, and will be offering Pad Thai and egg rolls as well as red or green curry.

Kane Pa’s Ohana has been offering food at Heiva I Kauai for 12 years, and this year they will have huli huli chicken plate lunch, Caesar salad, pizza and a chili plate.

Lionel Asai of Jewel’s Shave Ice (at various festivals throughout the year) has been a vendor for 12 years also. This weekend, he’ll make the day sweeter by offering shave ice, halo halo, snow doggie (think slushy), iced coffee, bottled water and soft drinks.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, gates open at 9 a.m. and at 10 a.m. Iona Teri`ipaia will begin the day with an opening prayer. Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., will sing Hawai`i Pono`i and the Tahitian anthem will follow.

Competition begins at 10:30 a.m. and concludes at 3:15 p.m. From then until 5 p.m., there will be a fire knife demonstration, ahupurotu (Tahitian version of hula) and workshops for dancing, drumming and Samoan fire knife dance.

The workshops continue on Sunday morning from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., and at 10:30 a.m. competition begins. At 1:15 p.m., there’s a coconut husking and grating contes,t and the event closes with performances from 2:30 to 5 p.m., when the awards ceremony begins.

Tickets cost $5 a day at the gate and children 6and under get in free. For more information, visit HeivaIKauai.com.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.