It has steadily developed since its creation: from 3 schools at the beginning in 1994, it gathers today more than 35 schools and thousands of young dancers. It embodies the vitality of the Polynesian culture.
It all began with the 2nd Games of Francophony in July 1994, which were held in Paris and in which French Polynesia competed in the traditional dancing category. At that time, Heremoana MAAMAATUAIAHUTAPU, the current Manager of “Maison de la Culture” (House of Culture), and Manouche LEHARTEL, a museologist and President of the Tahitian Federation of ‘Ori tahiti, were technical advisor for the Minister of Culture. They invited two iconic figures of ‘Ori Tahiti, Coco Hotahota and Pauline Dexter, to prepare for the competition. They combined their talent to design a show they presented at Vai’ete before they left for Metropolitan France. The best dancers of the time were involved and did not realize the impact that event would have for the generations to come.
Actually, the Ministry of Culture had the idea to invite Dancing Schools for the first part of that important event. So, the Arts Conservatory and two recognised personalities of the world of traditional dancing, Makau Delcuvellerie-Foster and Moeata Laughlin, answered the invitation. Since then, the same schools are still present in the French Polynesian cultural landscape and have heaps of dancers. Since then, they have instigated a vast cultural drive, as witnessed by the increasing number of schools, which appear each year with the same fervour and objective: to convey their passion for ‘Ori Tahiti.
These three schools thus cleared the path that others follow today. Indeed, twenty years later, they are more than thirty to participate each year. But evolution is not limited only to dancing: lately, the public could discover and appreciate the work of percussion and ukulele schools in the same framework. These schools did not participate in the Heiva of Dance Schools in the past, and that is a shame because what would dancing be without those instruments that make the soul of dancers and the heart of spectators beat?
Such a craze demonstrates – if ever it were needed – that the Polynesian culture continues to live through the songs, the dances and the gripping beats of to’ere. The involvement of all these artists: teachers, costume makers, dancers of all ages, musicians, and singers, have turned the Heiva of Dance Schools into just more than a mere event but rather a “real institution”!