The Islands of Tahiti Celebrate the 136th Annual Heiva I Tahiti, One of the Country’s Most Important Cultural Festivals

July 2, 2018 in Experience

LOS ANGELES – July 2, 2018Heiva I Tahiti, the annual festival of song and dance also known as “The Celebration of Life”, and one of the most famous gatherings in The Islands of Tahiti, will hold its 136th event this summer from July 4 – 18, 2018.

The Tahitian word Heiva (“hei” meaning to assemble, and “va” meaning community places) is known for its soul-stirring music, dancing, singing and sporting events that highlight the beauty and culture of the Polynesian people from The Islands of Tahiti. More than just a celebration of life, Heiva I Tahiti has become the symbol of the Polynesian tradition that was once almost completely lost, and over 8,000 participants volunteer to compete and assist in making the month-long festival unique from years past.

The main event, a dance and singing competition, kicks off on July 4th and continues throughout the following two weeks on the main island of Tahiti. Singers and dance troupes from all around the 118 islands in The Islands of Tahiti, who have trained for six months or more, choreograph programs that highlight ancestral traditions and legends. Music, choreography and costumes are based on historical or legendary themes that change yearly. Each night of Heiva, four to five dance and singing groups compete to be crowned the winners. The participants are judged by a group of experts who specialize in dance, traditional percussions and musical compositions, singing and lyrics. The experts look for specifics like entrance into the dance area, appearance, originality of the costumes, footwork, hip movements, arm and hand movements and facial expressions.

Live music accompanies the singers and dancers throughout the competition. The orchestras are made up of five to fifty musicians using traditional instruments such as the nasal flute or vivo, made from a portion of bamboo, marine shells or pu, and more recently, the ukulele. Traditional singing adds a powerful portion to the Heiva I Tahiti music, and the melodies include a cappella in reo ma’ohi (Polynesian language), which express moments of joy and melancholy.

Throughout the two weeks, visitors can spectate in other smaller events including specific performances by various dance troupes and traditional sports and games. The various sporting events are based on ancient athletic activities and include a stone lifting competition, a javelin- throwing event, va’a (outrigger canoe) races, a copra competition, and a fruit carrying competition. Guests should be sure not to miss the new show on Arahurahu marae (meeting grounds), E parauparau te ôfaì, led by the Hitireva troupe and produced with the support of French Polynesia’s Art Conservatory. The show, which is broken into eight scenes, features 121 artists, dancers, musicians, singers, orators and actors wearing dried and fresh vegetable costumes.

To find out more about the history of Heiva I Tahiti visit: