Heiva I Kauai returns

  • Photo by Mike Teruya

    One of the past performers shimmies in the annual Heiva I Kauai Tahiti cultural festival at Kapaa Beach Park.

  • Photo by Mike Teruya

    This year, Heiva l Kauai is celebrating its 17th anniversary of unique, exciting and colorful Tahitian dance and drumming at the annual event at Kapaa Beach Park.

Heiva l Kauai is celebrating the 17th anniversary of its colorful Tahitian dance and drumming at their annual event.

Participants from Hawaii, the Mainland and Japan, from toddler to elder, will be performing solo and group competition and exhibition dances portraying legends and stories of Tahiti.

The festival is aimed at providing a venue for the next generation of performers to present their talent, skill and cultural knowledge to an audience of more 1,000 attendees daily.

One of the groups will be traveling from Oahu to share their love for the dance.

“We’re a very small, humble group, and our whole goal is to teach Tahitian dancing to the dancers here and to share the culture and the dance with our students,” said Mareva Nopuente, who began her school, Te Ori Tahiti Here, on Oahu in 2009.

The award-winning Honolulu Tahitian dance group Te Vai Ura Nui will be providing house drumming and exhibition dancing on both days.

Nopuente, who is half-Tahitian, said participating in dance and heivas is important because it helps keep her culture alive and offers a way to share it with those who are wanting to learn something different.

“It gives me a venue to showcase what I teach to my students, so we’re thankful for the opportunity of the Heiva on Kauai and to be a part of it,” she said.

After opening ceremonies, the solo competition is Saturday, starting with the youngest age groups and continuing through to adults, until the champion dance-offs in the afternoon.

Solo categories include traditional Otea Vahine and Tane for junior, senior and master divisions. Group categories include Otea, Aparima, Ahupurotu and drumming. The group competition is Sunday.

“There’s two main styles of Tahitian dance. There’s the Otea, which is to drums, and the other one is Aparina, and that’s to lyrics, kind of like hula, but it’s usually more upbeat, at a faster pace,” Nopuente said.

Her group will be will be performing both of those dances, and 12 of her dancers will be performing solo dances, including some of the children.

Nopuente will be judging the competition. The process to become a judge has taken several years, she said.

“The first few years they invited me first to be an apprentice judge, so for the first few years I sat next to a judge and asked questions and it gave me the opportunity to learn how to be a judge, and then they asked me to be a judge,” she said.

Training others about the dance to keep the Heiva alive and keep it relevant to the younger generation is what the Heiva is trying to do, she said.

For many in her group of 25 performers, the Heiva will be their first cultural event, and they’re honored to perform.

“It’s something for us to look forward to,” she said.

Tahitian and other Pacific Island gifts such as jewelry, art, woodwork and clothing will be for sale. Food vendors will also be on hand, and Polynesian artists and crafters will also be demonstrating coconut frond and lauhala weaving, Polynesian carving and lei making.

The family-centered celebration is Aug. 4 and 5 at Kapaa Beach Park. Gates open at 10 a.m. Admission is $7. Children age 12 and under are admitted free.

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Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegardenisland.com.

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