Everyone is welcome: Tahitian dancers sharing the art of Ori Tahiti
Day-j Mahana Gemmel and Taina McClutchie bring Tahitian dance to Flaxmere.
A Tahitian dance class, run out of the Flaxmere Community Center, brings together people from all backgrounds looking for something new to try.
Raised in Tahiti, French Polynesian Day-j Mahana Gemmell was introduced to Tahitian dance at a young age.
After living in Hastings for almost two and a half years, the 27-year-old mother of one wanted to share her cultural dancing with her new community.
“In Tahiti, children are exposed to Tahitian dance, or Ori Tahiti, from a young age,” Day-j said.
Day-j took Ori Tahiti classes from the age of 5 but said she didn’t really like it until she was in her mid-teens.
“I’ve always wanted to share my love and passion for the Ori Tahiti ever since my husband and I left Hawaii for New Zealand.”
She just wasn’t sure how to go about it until her good friend Taina McClutchie approached the Flaxmere Community Center with the idea of a dance class.
The community center loved the idea – the Hastings community hadn’t planned dance classes like Day-j and Taina – so the two friends decided to share their Tahitian dance skills with their community.
Trained by experts, Taina performed in Hawaii for four years.
At first they started the course purely for fun because they missed dancing in New Zealand.
“We thought it would be good to give it a try, share our love and passion for the Ori Tahiti and see if people want to join us and learn or just have fun,” said Day-j.
“And why not try something new and different every now and then?”
Taina has done a lot of work taking the initiative to book the space and speak to the community center officials.
Day-j joked that she only contributed by showing up.
She also prepares the lessons with the music, the steps, the routine, the energy and everything else necessary.
All ages are welcome. The two teachers just want everyone to feel the same love and energy that they feel sharing the dances. “We want everyone to try,” says Day-J.
The Ori-Tahiti class has left the Flaxmere Community Center in the last four weeks and has been in the works since February this year.
An average of 15 people have attended the Tahitian dance class every Wednesday for the past two weeks.
“We were amazed and happy to have about 15 people this week; we didn’t expect so many,” said Day-j.
“Honestly, we would have loved to have one or two people around because we just wanted to have fun.”
Day-j expected the class to get bigger over time, but said she doesn’t expect “so many so soon.”
You don’t need much to attend the class, just a “pareo or lavalava, water, a smile, fun and an amazing attitude, but most of all, be ready to sweat and laugh”.
Tuition is free; However, the instructors will accept a small koha if you wish to donate in recognition of their time and hard work.
Day-j said, “Seeing the community having fun together, sweating, laughing and pushing each other together helps us, Taina and I break down stereotypes about dancing as teachers and sharing.”
• Ori Tahiti Tahiti Dance: Every Wednesday from 5:00pm to 6:00pm at the Flax Rock Community Centre.