Island Dance Festival – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

A Week of Beating Drums and Swaying Hips

The Cook Islanders are considered the best dancers in the South Pacific, but their nightly hotel shows are usually the most authentic displays of traditional skills many travelers will see.

True dance lovers and those wanting to see something more than pretty beaches should plan their Cook Islands trip around the annual Island Dance Festival, for which the crème de la crème of the islands’ village and school dance troupes travel to “mainland” Rarotonga for a week of song and dance. The lusty, hip-swinging tamure is much like what you might see in Tahity, though the drum-induced enthusiasm and spirit of the Cook Islanders will convince you that the dance belongs to them.

It’s second nature to male and female, young and old, part of the cultural glue that binds these fifteen far-flung islands. It is amusing to imagine the alarm of the early missionaries, just barely off the boat from dank, temperate England, encountering such decidedly unreserved behavior.

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