There’s a Tahitian inspired dance group in Honolulu that’s got everyone talking – Tahiti Mana, founded in 2011 by the well-known Tahitian Manarii (‘Mana’) Gauthier, a group which “shares and perpetuates Tahitian culture through music, dance, language, and other cultural activities”:
They’re doing plenty right – performing to the theme of the ancient Tahitian legend of Hono’ura at this year’s prestigious Heiva i Honolulu, Hawaii’s celebration of its Polynesian culture, Tahiti Mana won 1st place Ote’a (making them Grand Champions of the Heiva), Best Ote’a Costume, Best Aparima, Best Original Aparima, Best Ute, Best Couple, Best Ra’atira, 1st place Ahupurotu, Best Fact Sheet, and need I add Group of the Year. A sensational result for a sensational performance!
I was covering Team Bora Bora’s finish on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu in the 2014 Na Wahine O Ke Kai when the intoxicating beat of toeres rang out, well thundered out, across the beach. Mana was there creating the ambience as usual with his traditional Tahitian orchestra welcoming home, as Tahitian tradition would have it, the team from Bora Bora:
Manarii was born & grew up in Tahiti. From the outset he was immersed in Ori Tahiti (traditional Tahitian dance) – his mother danced for 20 years with Coco Hotahota’s Te Maeva, & actually participated in the Heiva i Tahiti………….whilst pregnant with Manarii! This is not to underplay the role of Manarii’s father whose Ori Tahiti duos with Manarii’s mother on the tables of the Atimaono Golf Club during prizegiving are legendary!!!
Manarii started performing at age 5 under the direction of the renowned dancer, “Teve”. In 2004, he danced the world renowned Heiva i Tahiti in Makau Foster’s legendary group Tamariki Poerani & then in 2005 was selected to represent Teva i Tai in the Heiva i Tahiti’s best individual male dancer competition.
Manarii moved to Hawaii to attend the University of Hawaii, Manoa playing College golf whilst considering a career as a professional golfer, having represented Tahiti internationally in the sport. One has to wonder if it was the PGA dress code that made him opt to start Tahiti Mana:
After graduating, he married fellow dancer Nalini who holds a BA majoring in dance who & is currently enrolled in a Master’s Degree in Dance at UH Manoa. Nalini assists Manarii in Tahiti Mana concentrating on the vahine (girls) dance technique & the choreography. They have 2 sons – Maviri aged 7 & Taitoa who just turned 2 – both are already dancing………… Ah, yes, “like father like son”!
Here are shots of Manarii & Nalini then one of Manarii with their second son Taitoa accompanied by Malia, the daughter of one of Tahiti Mana’s dancers & her husband who plays in the group’s orchestra:
Manarii, Nalini & Tahiti Mana have participated in competitions & special performances throughout Hawaii & also extensively in Japan and California. They have been retained for several commercials & appeared on TV shows such as Kimora Lee Simmons “Life in the Fab Lane” & “Hawaii 5-0”. In 2005 Manarii won the renowned title of ‘Tane Polynesia’ in Kauai. In 2008 & 2009, he choreographed the tane (male) section that won the Heiva i Honolulu, professional division. He has performed at ‘Magic of Polynesia’ since 2007 & won the prestigious ‘1st Place Tane’ at the Polynesian Cultural Center’s ‘Tahitian Solo Invitational’ 2012 where the following photo was taken:
The Tahiti Mana site has excellent video coverage of this large & powerful group’s outstanding performances in the Heiva i Honolulu.
Tahiti Mana – a ‘must see’ if visiting Honolulu.