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Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at


Just as the traditions are cherished and repeated from father to son, the native dances are remembered and held in esteem, although never publicly practiced. Mr. Salmon secured the services of the "star performers" and we were fortunately enabled to witness the peculiarities of the native dance at his house at Viahu, on the eve of our departure from the island. The music was furnished by three persons seated upon the floor, who accompanied their discordant voices by thumps upon a tom-tom improvised from old cracker-boxes, and the dance was performed by an old woman and a young girl, the latter possessing some claim to symmetry of figure. The dancers wore a single loose garment, short enough to expose the bare ankles and sun-browned feet. Over the head and shoulders was thrown a white cloak, composed of a few yards of cotton cloth, which was sometimes spread open and occasionally made to hide the whole figure as they went through the various evolutions of the dance. This mantle was, not managed with any particular skill or grace and seemed to be identified with one particular

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dance, after which it was discarded for the small dancing-paddle or wand. The weird songs related the achievements and exploits of their ancestors in war, fishing, and love and the gestures of the dancers were upon this occasion perfectly proper and modest. Some of the movements were suggestive of a rude relationship to the dances performed by the geisha girls of Japan in their odori, and consisted of movements and attitudes calculated to display the elegance and grace of the performers. The peculiar feature of the native dancing is the absence of violent motion; there is no jumping or elaborate pirouettes, no extravagant contortions, and nothing that might be called a precision of step. The lower limbs play a part of secondary importance to the arms and the dancers indulge in no dizzy gyrations. The feet and hands are kept moving in unison with the slow, monotonous music, while the dancers endeavor to act out the words of the song by pantomime. These islanders, like their sisters throughout Polynesia, have their hula-hula, or dances that partake of passion and abandon, and portray the old story of coquetry, jealousy, and ultimate surrender of the maiden. Soft swaying movements, a gentle turning away, timid glances, and startled gestures, gradually giving place to more rapturous passion, speak plainly enough the theme of the song, though the movements are less graceful and elegant than those which characterize the nautch dances of India. Among the diversified dances, some are performed by men and others by women, but the sexes rarely if ever dance together. Wands are usually held in each hand, but occasionally one and sometimes both are discarded. Feather hats and other ornaments are worn in portraying characters and some of the dances are said to be of obscene tendencies.

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