I was holding a basket of papaya in one hand, and was sipping out of a coconut shell drink cupped in the other hand, while trying to exit the bustling Papeete Market on Rue Du 22 Septembre. 

Outside the market, the sounds of beating drums lured my curiosity into a building across the street.  I walked up the stairs, and saw a pile of savats and sandals, turned the corner and found myself in the middle of a Tahitian Dance Class.

If you want to learn how to move to the Polynesian beat, go where the locals learn – Ecole de Danse Tapairu.  The French Polynesia’s Art Conservatory has preserved the art of this ancient dance – Ori Tahiti.  The director, Fabien Dinard explains that “Ori is authentic, exotic and sensual at the same time, a seductive combination.  Ori Tahiti is the collective name for all traditional Tahitian dances.  It includes “ote’a”, performed by both men and women.  “Ote’a” features very fast, rhythmic hip and leg movements; “aparima, is a slower dance in which arm and hand gestures echo the lyrics of the song; hivinau is a cheerful dance in concentric circles usually mixing men and women; and “pa’o’a” stages solo dancers or couples.”  In ancient times, the Polynesians danced to please the atua (the gods), and to mark life’s milestones or to celebrate a victory.  The Ori Tahiti preserves the legends of ancestral Polynesian heritage and culture.

Vanina Ehu, runs the Ori Tahiti Academy and is the traditional dance teacher and provides 1 hour or 1 day, or 1 week lessons and instruction to visitorsMamie Louise Kimitete is a dance legend herself, and often times oversees the students at the Academy.  To learn more, visit .

Or if you just want to watch, you can find Tahitian dancing almost anywhere in French Polynesia.  But most likely, you’ll find your body start to move to the beat and be dancing along like these American guys. 

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