Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Diner Dansant - How Tahiti Iti Rocks Out on a Saturday Night
To say that the nightlife is dead here in Tahiti Iti is a gross understatement. Fortunately every couple months or so someone throws a Diner Dansant (a diner and dance night)and everyone within a 25 km radius throw on their flashiest duds and come out to get their groove on. Last night my Tahitian dance school put on their annual Diner Dansant at the beautiful, waterfront Restaurant de Musée Gauguin and over 500 people turned up - it rocked.
A Tahitian Diner Dansant is unlike any other party I've ever been to anywhere. Everyone from age seven to 75 come out for the fun and all laugh and dance with each other till the wee hours of the morn. It's a small-town feel and everyone knows each other or at least looks familiar. I ended up dancing with a bunch of my kid's school teachers.
Alcohol flows freely but there's an air of class to these events so they rarely get messy. Last night started with a delicious Chinese-style sit down meal, which was followed by a dance performance by the best, youngest and most beautiful of the school's dancers. I've written before about my passion for Tahitian dance but now that I'm taking dance classes my enthusiasm for the art is sky-rocketing. Imagine eating Chinese braised duck and poisson cru while watching tanned buff men in palm frond loin cloths waggling their knees with the most gorgeous long-haired Tahitian girls shaking their hips a million miles an hour. It's graceful, it's by far the sexiest thing you'll ever see and yet somehow it remains surprisingly wholesome.
In fact the whole night was wholesome despite the drunken revelry. In Tahiti, couples waltz dancing reigns even with the youngest crowds and it's nearly always danced to a live group playing cheesy synthesized fox-trot renditions of everything from Tahitian classics to (I kid you not) the "Hokey Pokey" and "When the Saints Come Marching In." I've always considered myself a pretty decent dancer but here in Polynesia I am at the bottom of the barrel. There's some second rhythm that Tahitians hear that I can't catch and the whole swiveling and swirling of bodies along with the quick waltz step makes it all confusingly end up somewhere between a super steamy salsa dance and ballroom dancing. Every now and then I get a cavalier (dance partner) who brings out the best in me but usually they give up on me after one dance. Luckily my husband is closer to my level so we just sway back and forth in awe of everyone else. Everyone on the dance floor is smiling, laughing, sweating in the heat and no one cares how bad we dance - they are just happy we're out on the floor enjoying the evening with them.
Note: We forgot the camera last night so for the first time I'm using a stock photo! It's from the US Tahiti Tourism website.