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Samoan dance is possibly the one area of Samoan culture which has been least affected by contact with western civilsation. Whereas Samoan music has adopted guitars and other musical instruments, dance, which relies solely upon the performers body (with some exceptions - fire dance, knife dance, etc) still requires the performer to retain grace and move their arms and hands in the approved fashion. However, Samoans who are members of the Seventh Day Adventist church do not practice Samoan dancing because it is proscribed by their religion.
Unlike several of the other Pacific Islands you will not normally fnd the dancers performing in grass skirts, nor is the hula a dance native to Samoa. More often than not performers will were lavalava, but in some cases the women will wear matting made from the Pandunas and turned into ie toga and the men will wear necklaces or anklets made from leaves. The clothing made be decorated with feathers or frreshly cut flowers and lei.
There are different types of dances which are performed by individuals or groups and either sitting or standing.
The best time to see Samoan dancing is at a fiafia, a traditional Samoan meal accompanied by various performers both singing and dancing. Most of the major hotels have fiafia one night a week, and you should take the oportunity to go and see one if it arises. The fiafia at Aggie Grey's was for a long time considered to be the best but we felt, and several residents of Apia agreed, that the one at the Tusitala is actually better. The siva afi performed at Aggie Grey's has turned into a mini-entertainment spectacular, and whilst being far removed from a traditional fire dance is well worth watching. Since it takes place around the swimming pool and is the last item performed you could probably go and see it without being present for the rest of the evening.
If attending a fiafia, and you are of a withdrawn disposition it is advisable not to take a front row seat, because audience participation is always required. In particular watch out for Richard, the master of ceremonies, at the Tusitala because he will try his hardest to make an absolute fool out of at least one tourist during the course of the evening.
Siva is the Samoan word for dance, but it also refers to a particular type of dance in which the performer usually stands and enacts an everday activity. For the siva the performer usually wears a tuiga, a headdress made of feathers and human hair.
The Taualunga takes a similar form to the siva. It is performed by a female dancer, but instead of performing alone there will be various points at which a group of men will participate. In addition a sei, headdress of flowers, will be worn.
The Sasa is a group dance for men and women performed both sitting and standing. Hand movements are used to depict activities taken from every day life.