Blocks from Kapaa Beach Park, you could hear the drums. They were followed by the excited shouts of mistress of ceremonies Cathy Teri‘ipaia.
All through Saturday morning and late into the afternoon, the drums and Teri‘ipaia’s cries and yells continued to fill the air, acting like a magnet, pulling people to the park. And as they drew closer, paid their entry fee and took their seat, they saw the dancers.
Fast and furious and powerful.
It was mesmerizing.
“Wow. They’re just amazing,” said Randy McDaniels of California, who is vacationing on Kauai and decided to stop in for the 17th annual Heiva I Kauai. “It’s crazy how fast they can move.”
This was just day one of the Tahitian dancing and drumming event that featured solo competition, along with the award-winning Honolulu Tahitian dance group Te Vai Ura Nui and even some of Kauai’s youth.
“Aren’t they wonderful,” Teri‘ipaia shouted as a group of keiki left the field following their dance under a hot afternoon sun.
Naomi Baldomero of Te Vai Ura Nui was all smiles during and after the performance of shaking, swirling and swiveling. Their group is high energy, full of joy that seemed to spill over into the audience.
Baldomero said it’s important to share the Tahitian culture “in the right way.”
“We come here each year and we’re grateful to be here,” she said. “It’s such a good energy and feeling. It’s a nice family event.”
After their relentless, breathless dance, the group gathered backstage for pictures, hugs and laughs.
“I’m a little tired, but I feel great,” said Baldomero, who will return to dance more today with Te Vai Ura Nui.
Kauai’s Chaz Sasil with Ori Uvira is entered in the solo competition and was also pulled out of the crowd for some exhibition dancing, which he attacked with a creative spirit.
He has lived here all his life and been in the competition each year.
“I always look forward to it,” he said. “It’s cool how everyone comes together from the different islands as one island.”
The annual Heiva I Kauai is important culturally, he added, and he takes prides in showing people that Tahitian dancing lives on.
As for his competition, Sasil admitted to being nervous.
“But I’m going to dance and have fun,” he said.
Participants from Hawaii, the Mainland and Japan, from toddler to elder, will be performing group competition and exhibition dances today, portraying legends and stories of Tahiti.
There are two main styles of Tahitian dance: Otea is to drums, while Aparina is to lyrics.
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.
Kahai and Haley LaCount of Kapaa watched their 3-year-old daughter, Ainsley, perform with Ori Uvira during an exhibition.
Kahai beamed with pride afterward.
“It’s a very proud moment,” he said.
He said there are not many things that make him emotional, but watching his daughter dance in front of hundreds of people at Heiva I Kauai was one such time.
“She does her own thing, but for the most part she sticks with her group. There’s nothing more we could ask.”
It takes courage to be out there, Kahai said.
“I know I couldn’t do it. Whenever they’re walking around looking for people from the audience to dance in the front, I run and hide,” he said, chuckling.
Heiva l Kauai continues to day, starting at 10 a.m. at Kapaa Beach Park. Admission is $7. Children 12 and under are free.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.