Forum: Folk / Polynesian Dance

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Tahitian basics help
By hulamom
On Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:51 AM
Edited by hylndlas (107168) on 2007-06-07 13:36:49 fixed title
Made sticky by hylndlas (107168) on 2007-06-07 13:37:29 The info in this is very good and I think it would be very helpful as a sticky

Aloha All!

I am looking for a list of tahitian basics/fundamentals!!

Can anyone help me out?


36 Replies to Tahitian basics help

re: tahitian basics help
By No_Longer_on_DDNPremium member
On Sun Nov 19, 2006 05:25 PM
Do you need them for yourself? Or your daughter?

I'm just asking because sometimes different halau's use different terms. For example, I've always called fa'arapu...fa'arapu...that's the term I was taught and it's the term that's used @ competition. But I have an Auntie who's been dancing since the 70's and she said she remembers when they called fa'arapu...ami. lol. weird huh?

Sometimes different halau refer to certain dance terms differently. I have a list that I got from a halau that I used to work for. But it might jsut be better to ask whoever it is that you dance for for a list. = )

Let me know if you want it anyways...
re: tahitian basics help
By hulamom
On Sun Nov 19, 2006 05:40 PM
Yes I would love whatever list you have....Thank you so much....and that is weird...fa'arapu ami...I've never heard of that before
re: tahitian basics help
By Celebrianmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Nov 20, 2006 02:25 PM
Can you send me that list, too, Kaleonahenahe?

re: tahitian basics help (karma: 4)
By No_Longer_on_DDNPremium member
On Fri Nov 24, 2006 09:01 AM this is the list of some of the basics that were shared with me by the talented Julie Bugarin (always give credit where credit is due) who is the director of Merahi O Tehani in Union City, CA. I used to work for her as an instructor in her hula department and her knowledge of Tahitian culture and dance is amazing. = ) The terminology is all from her but everything in the ( ) are my way of providing a deeper explanation or another term that I've heard used to describe the dance move.

*Afata- box (hips hit in the shape of a box)
*Fa'arapu- stir hips fast circles ( hips move around in fast circles)
*Fa'arori- varu fa'arapu (you do a fa'arapu in the shape of figure eight)
*Fa'amenemene- ami fa'arapu (you do a big ami and a fa'arapu @ the same time)
*Ope- pics to the left & right ( you put one leg out and push and then the same to the other side)
*Ruru- freeze ( I normally refere to this move as a shimmy)
*Nu'utere Ne'e- duck walk
*Tamau- sway right, sway left (hips bump from side to side)
*Te'i- on toes
*Toma- double bump (hips hit twice to one side then twice to the other, I've also heard this move called OTAMU, which is the term I normally use)
*Varu- figure eight (hips move in the shape of a figure eight the in parallel to the floor)

Okie dokie...there's some of the list...I hope that it's useful. If you guys have the time you should check out the Merahi O Tehani website. It's Julie is also the genuis behind the motorbutt clothing line & tons of fun stuff for the polynesian dance community.
You are amazing!
By hulamom
On Mon Dec 04, 2006 11:18 PM
Thank you so much! You are so wonderful and amazing~ Thank you for taking the time to help me. It is people like you that make tahitian dancing real.

tahitian dance basics (karma: 1)
By katan
On Sun Jan 07, 2007 03:14 PM
I wondered since you were so kind as to write a list of some basic Tahitian dance moves could you tell me the explanation for these moves:

Ori mata
haire vau
nu'u fa'ahere
ami tahiti

The spelling may be wrong but they are on my practice CD that I bought from Mahea Uchiyama's website. The names I do not recognize from my dance class are listed above. Any info would be appreciated! Thank you for your time!
re: tahitian basics help (karma: 2)
By No_Longer_on_DDNPremium member
On Mon Jan 08, 2007 01:41 PM
i'm not really familiar with a lot of those terms either...

from what I've been told...

*iraro - means to go down (like level changes)

*fa'atere- is when one foot is flat, and the other is on the ball of the foot, and you hit to the side. EXAMPLE : your right foot is flat, the left one is on the ball of the foot. you then hit your hips starting to the right and move to the side. if your left foot is flat then and the right is on the ball of the foot, then you start by hitting to the left and moving in that's hard to explain on the computer...sorry.

*tamau- is when your hips hit from side to side (i've also heard this call otu'i. maybe that a term you're more familiar with)

*ami tahiti- is a huge circle with your hips (i'm not completely sure about this one so don't hold me to it...= /)

*ori mata- i kniow that ori means dance and mata means eyes...but i have no idea what type of dance movement it is.

sorry i couldn't be of more help. when it comes to knowledge is pretty limited...i'm more of a hula
re: tahitian basics help
By katan
On Mon Jan 08, 2007 02:44 PM
Thank you! You are a big help and very sweet to share your knowledge! I am slowly but surely getting these moves straight in my head thanks to help from people like you!
I really appreciate it!
Happy dancing!
re: tahitian basics help
By doomed_fairymember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Feb 10, 2007 03:19 AM
Great explanations! Thanks, kaleonahenahe.

I don't know if it's correct, but when I was dancing Tahitian, fast amis were usually called ueue, and "bumps" we called ta'iri tamau. I really don't know a thing about the Tahitian language, so I could be very wrong. :P
re: tahitian basics help
By No_Longer_on_DDNPremium member
On Thu Feb 15, 2007 04:08 PM
Oh wow, that's cool. = )

I've never heard fa'arapu called ueue. I know of a movement that the guys do that's called ueue. And yeah, i've heard tamau (which is a bump or sway from side to side) called ta'iri tamau. I think the difference is that ta'iri is faster than just regualr. I know at competition they call it ta'iri tamau. = )

I'm no expert though...far from it. lol. I just share what I know.
re: tahitian basics help
By wannahula
On Fri Mar 09, 2007 02:45 AM
Wow! This is really informative. I heard the fa`arapu called the `ami too. I think maybe? halaus that teach both Tahitian and hula tend to call it the `ami (which is a hula term) just for simplicity sake so that the students learn choreography faster, instead of being confused by a lot of different vocab.

I also heard the fa`arapu called ori. However, I recently heard that ori is just the word for dance. So kaleonahenahe is totally right on by saying that different halau call these dance terms by different terminology.
re: Tahitian basics help
By Kelikea15
On Fri Jan 11, 2008 02:01 PM
i've been doing polynesian for almost 10 years now, and i've only ever heard it called ami.. thats so weird, it wasn't until i started looking on this site that i saw these other names! all of the moves are exactly the same though.. why is that??
re: Tahitian basics help
By sweezyula
On Sun Sep 21, 2008 07:40 PM
Hi! I've been looking at the Ami, and i'm confused about the knees and feet movement. Do we lift the heels when we do it? Thanks!
re: Tahitian basics help
By tnite
On Thu Nov 13, 2008 06:21 PM
When you do certain movements, the Ami for example, your heels do not leave the floor. Your feet remain in a "V" shape with heels touching and toes faced outwards (like a "V"). Slightly bend your knees and move them back and forth. This will cause your hips to move. Use the momentum to form a circle with your hips while the upper body remains motionless..
hope this helps!
re: Tahitian basics help
By tnite
On Thu Nov 13, 2008 06:57 PM
What is:
- Ori Tu'i
- Hura
re: Tahitian basics help
By Punahele
On Sun Jan 25, 2009 08:03 PM
Now days, if in competition, the judges look at the "V" as wrong. Feet should be close together-no day light.

Do yoy miind me asking where you live, sometimes where we live has a great impact on the information we receive.

re: Tahitian basics help
By tnite
On Mon Jan 26, 2009 03:07 PM
Hi Punahele!
I live on Oahu. The "V" feet position is what I was taught. I've never entered into solo competition before but I want to. Thanks for the advice! I wouldn't want to get points marked off because of my feet. =)
re: Tahitian basics help
By Cella
On Sun Feb 08, 2009 03:08 PM
HI I'm new member here and I made tahitian classes last year. I stopped bcz there's no graduated teachers here in my country [Brazil]... at least I've never found any :( So who was teaching me did not give me clear answers for my doubts...

and one of them was about the Ami [which now I found that the real name is fa'arapu]: is it right that the circle must be done only to the left side??? if so.. is there any explanation why?

thx :)
re: Tahitian basics help
By Punahele
On Thu Feb 12, 2009 04:43 PM
Fa'arapu are done in an even motion, no whipping to the left. It is done similar to the ami, but larger more exagerated. No moving the chee-chees(chest). I tell my students to push their fa'arapu just behind the hip as to make it bigger. To favor ne side is wrong. Hope this helps. Mauruuruu! Dori
re: Tahitian basics help
By Cella
On Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:56 AM
the things is that, as a bellydancer, I got used to make my hip rotations to the right more than to the left. And when I started my tahitian classes the teacher said that the hips rotations [at fa'arapu / ami] were supposed to be made ONLY to the left, what was very difficult for me when I had to put some speed on it...

Later, watching many videos I noticed that most of the tahitian dancers really make the rotations to the left but still, there are some few ones who make it to the right.

That's why I asked! :)
re: Tahitian basics help
By jazzy1794
On Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:14 PM
I've been reading the posts and this seems to be a confusion. Ami is a slower circular motion, while fa'arapu is a faster circular motion. This is probably the move that most people associate tahitian dancers with. Much love, Jazzy.
re: Tahitian basics help
By Lianes
On Sat Apr 11, 2009 01:55 PM
I've started to learn in France, with a very good teacher from Tahiti, and I can answer some questions.

faarapu is different from ami.

faarapu is the one that can be very fast. Its characteristics:
- its base is tamau (hips form side to side, heels going up just a little, knees going up absolutely straight forward, no movement on the side) + a tatue (reversing belly): your belly comes in (and I should say "up"!) and not really forward (this is not oriental belly dance!).
- when some one look at your feet/legs only, you should not see any difference between tamau and faarapu ! The mouvement of your legs is going up and down as if riding a bicycle. Heels slightly go up.
- You can turn right or left. Every one as a favorite side,and you must respect this. You can change side, but you will never turn fast on both sides...

Now about ami...
- Its movement is slower and larger
- it is larger because your body balance does not go only behing/forward as if walking. Body weight turns between 4 parts of your feet instead of 2. front, side/exterior of your foot, heels, side/exterior of the other foot... This is the main difference with faarapu.
- You must absolutely learn to do it on the right AND on the left! All girls do it together, and it is large and slow enough to be seen.
You can do it moving. So you turn right (always the side of starting) when you move to the right side, and when you come back, you move left.
re: Tahitian basics help
By Tahiti_E_Imua
On Wed May 27, 2009 04:46 PM
Edited by Tahiti_E_Imua (212047) on 2009-05-27 17:20:09
Edited by Tahiti_E_Imua (212047) on 2009-05-27 17:24:00
Edited by Tahiti_E_Imua (212047) on 2009-05-27 17:24:51
Edited by Tahiti_E_Imua (212047) on 2009-05-27 17:25:42
Ia Orana everyone…. Looks like a lot of good information has been shared by everyone, and I just wanted to add in my two cents as well:

1 FA'ARAPU - Fast shake, moving hips in a rapid circular or slightly oval shape.
2 FA'ARORI - While doing a fa'arapu, you move your hips in the shape of a figure-8.
3 FA'AMENEMENE - While doing a fa'arapu, you move your hips in the shape of an ami (a large circle).
4 FA'ARURU - Shifting your weight to one side, the leg slightly bent, you shake/ shimmy your hip.
5 TAHAPEHAPE - While doing a fa'arapu, you twist your hips side-to-side.
6 VARU - Moving your hips in the shape of a figure-8.
7 TAMAU - Bumping your hips side-to-side, hitting each side hard.
8 TAHIRI TAMAU - Similar to a tamau, except that instead of bumping each hip once, you bump twice.
9 AFATA - Moving your hips to form the four corners of a box shape.
10 AMI - Large, slow circle with your hips
11 PA'IPA'I - With one leg out & the foot slightly raised, the hip emphasizes a bump to the front.
12 TEI - With one leg out & the foot slightly raised, the hip emphasizes a bump to the back.
13 HURA - Swaying both hips smoothly side-to-side
14 FA'ATOPA - Sitting down on your shins, knees and feet together, you do a fa'arapu
15 FA'AHE'E - One leg slightly out, but both legs bent, you move your hips in an exaggerated varu
16. NE’E - Fa’arapu while moving forward by ‘dragging’ feet; your feet must remain flat.
17. TEI - Fa’arapu (or tahapehape, etc) while up on your toes.
18. NU’UTERE NE’E - aka Duck Walk. Squatting on your toes, with knees and legs together, butt raised 2-3 inches off your ankles. Fa’arapu while shuffling your toes forward.
19. AMAHA - Moving forward and backward with one leg while keeping the other in place. The hips bump similar to a tamau, but emphasis is on the hip of the leg that is moving.

HURI - A command to turn, typically always to the right
I MUA - A command to move forward
I RARO - A command to go down

As for technique/ style, it really varies. Traditionally, it’s appropriate to keep your feet flat and both your feet and your knees together while dancing. Feet are slightly in a "V" shape, but not an exaggerated "V." The shoulders should remain still, and so should the chest (of course if you’re big-breasted, there will be some ‘movement’ of the susu, but not a lot). Some girls start trying to fa'arapu so fast that they start moving their whole body to gain momentum and speed, and that hurts you in a competition. Upper body should remain steady; arms should be outstretched, but not stiff, and fingers and toes should be together and relaxed. If a dancer has their back facing the audience, you shouldn’t see one ankle continually popping up, or one leg pumping more than the other, or the toes up in the air. The fa’arapu should be even, not one side stronger than another. Many girls emphasize their backs, because the fa’arapu is typically the biggest and strongest when looking at it from behind, but there should be a “roll” to the stomach in the front as well. I know in competitions, some judges mark girls off if they have no visible fa’arapu when facing the front.

This is the way I was taught…but times change and with it, so does the style. There is a movement towards 'contemporary' Tahitian dancing these days, at least in the US. Some things are the same - shoulders should be still - but other things, like the feet and legs, are changing. In the last few years I’ve seen more and more girls tending to dance with their feet and legs apart for extended periods of time, more modern arm movements, etc. It personally doesn’t bother me, so long as dancers are still being taught the traditional style as well. For a new dancer, I’d say learn the traditional style first, and then if you wanna do more contemporary moves, you already have a strong sense of the basics.

As for judges, competitions and what makes a good Tahitian dancer, you're going to get different opinions re: style/ technique. Most judges are older, and they DO prefer traditional - but there are judges that appreciate the modern style as well. Many judges like to see girls wearing the big headpieces with feathers and shells all over, others prefer more natural, floral accessories. That kind of thing does vary from judge to judge....but there are TWO things that ALL judges look for, no matter their opinion re: style and appearance: #1 - They want to see a dancer that knows how to dance; knows the basics, and can do them fluidly and smoothly. Each movement should be distinctive (ie. a fa'arapu should clearly be a fa'arapu, and a varu should clearly be a varu, etc) but the moves should flow nicely, not just look like you're jumping from one move to the next, without any fluidity to it...

And #2 - THE MOVEMENTS YOU DO MUST MATCH THE BEAT. I'm kind of surprised everyone has been talking about the dance moves without mentioning the drum beats...because the two go HAND IN HAND. All judges are looking for dancers that can match the beat. While it's helpful to learn the names of the different movements for dancing, you should also learn and listen to the different Tahitian drum beats. Like with ori (dancing), drumming has names for certain beats - samba, toma, pahae, etc. There are different kinds of drums too: toere, faatete, pahu, etc. There are at least as many drum beats as there are dance moves. In solo competitions, the house drummers play whatever beats they want in the time allowed - dancers don't know what beats will be played for them before entering the stage. As soon as the drumming starts, a dancer has to follow the beat, and if you know your beats, you'll be able to follow what the house drummers do, and you'll score higher, because all judges, no matter their style preference, feel the same when it comes to dancing to the beat.

That being said... good luck with your Tahitian dancing. Be sure to take a look at some competitions on YouTube, to give you an idea of what everyone has been talking about....
re: Tahitian basics help
By sweethawaiian141
On Thu Feb 11, 2010 02:42 AM
that was great info thanks so much for listing it
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