Tahitian dance and music group from Molokaʻi heading to Tahiti
Molokaʻi's only school of Tahitian dance and music is growing. Under the guidance of a longtime instructor who was raised in her mom’s California hālau, the group has been honored with new opportunities coming this summer.
When Chelsea Tanaka-Lima began teaching Tahitian dance and drumming on Molokaʻi in 2018, she wasn’t sure how it would go.
“When I had my first practice here, nobody came. Then I had two dancers, then after that, we started getting more and more and now we have 40-something dancers.”
The members of Teoraroa Molokaʻi range in age from 4 to 48 and along with the dancers, the group includes eight drummers.
Tanaka-Lima says she wants Teoraroa to be a safe, creative space to build self-confidence through the culture and dance of Tahiti while fostering values like teamwork, discipline and commitment.
Soon after its 2018 start, the pandemic ended in-person classes. Tanaka-Lima continued teaching virtually and her students even entered some virtual competitions.
Recently, Teoraroa held its first annual gala. The event was a fundraiser for a summer of big opportunities.
Teoraroa is the first Molokaʻi group ever to be invited to Tahiti to join in the Farereira'a. It's a festival celebrating Tahiti's culture that gathers Tahitian dance and music groups from around the world. Some of Teoraroa's members will also be traveling to California this summer for a Tahitian dance competition.
Tanaka-Lima has Molokaʻi roots but was raised in California. Her mother made sure her cultural education was strong, and she learned hula and Tahitian dance from her mom.
Now, she wants to teach her own daughter the same traditions. She says it’s not just about dancing on stage but the journey to get there and keeping sight of what’s most important.
“Just continuing on, no matter what it is, if it's dance, if it's singing, if your tūtū used to play the ʻukulele, no matter what it is that your family does, just continue it on… To remember our ancestors and remember the lessons they taught us and continue it on for the next generation.”