Māʻuluʻulu

The māʻuluʻulu is a traditional Tongan dance, performed by a group of seated men and women; stylistically, the dance form is a direct successor of the ancient Tongan ʻotuhaka having been synthesized with the Samoan Māuluulu which was imported during the 19th century.

 

The performers sit down in a row on the ground, crosslegged, usually the right leg over the left. If possible men and women alternate. To the left and/or right is/are the nafa (see below), behind them stand the langituʻa, the singers. On informal occasions the dancemaster may walk around, clapping his hands to keep up the rhythm and to encourage the performers. On formal occasions, like a presentation to the king, the dancemaster also stands in the back. Only when the dancemaster is the chief Malukava, he is allowed per tradition to be in front.

 

If there are many dancers, often the case when a school performs, up to 500 at a really huge occasion, they sit in staggered rows. The dancers of front row (which gets the most attention and therefore sits the best dancers or the ones with the highest social status) sit on the ground. The second row on a low bench, the next row on a higher bench, and so forth. The last row usually stands, or if that is still not enough, they may stand on benches and tables. If the dance is an effort of a local community, young and old perform. The youngest children then cutely sit at the ends of the rows.

 

In the ʻUiha tradition the arrangement is different: the women sit on the ground in the frontrow(s) but the men stand behind them and act more as in a lakalaka.

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