Regions where Samoa dance is found


Regions where Samoa dance is found

This dance originated from the Samoan Islands, situated in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are found in between New Zealand and Hawai’i which is preferred as a Polynesian triangle. This Polynesian triangle is collectively created with Easter Island, Hawai’i, and New Zealand as its focal points. It is further alienated into Western and Eastern Polynesia. The neighbors of western Polynesian include; Tokelau to the north, Tonga to the south, the Cook Islands to the east and Futuna, Fiji and Wallis to the west.

According to Radakovich, the islands were divided politically into two bodies; the Eastern region that separated from the United States in early 1900 and currently remain un included territory of the U.S. The islands are; Olosega, Ta’u, and Ofu, (referred by the general name as Manu’a islands), Aunu’u, Tutuila, Swains, and Rose Atoll. The western side, known as Samoa became the first to gain independence in the pacific country in 1962. This includes; Apolima, Manono, Savai’i, and Upolu among, other, several uninhabited islands. Despite the separation of the two Samoans being political independent of each other, there is a common heritage shared by the people living both parts. Music, Family, and Faith are the three elements believed to components of life by Samoans people. ( Radakovich, 1)

Types of dances

There are several terms used in naming Samoan dancing styles basing Radakovich’s argument (7, 8 & 9). The names of dances are typically matching the names of the songs they are danced to. The given names for different dancing styles are determined by the use of the musical instrument for the dance, the body movements for the dance, the purpose for the dance or equipment used by the dancers. According to Radakovich, Moyle grouped Samoan dance into two critical groups. “Extant dances” are those dances that are still performed on a regular basis, while “Obsolete dance,” are those dances that are currently not performed routinely.

Examples of extant dancing styles include; Ailao, sake, and Siva Ali among others, while, for Obsolete include; ulo, vila, social, and solilemogamoga among other dances (Radakovich, 9 &10).

There are several factors behind the gradual change in Samoan dance. Some of the developments are as a result of natural processes like time, cultural exchange with adjacent islands, and personal creativity. Also, other changes are as a result of the existence of Christian missionaries in the Samoa island since many dancing ceremonies were discouraged by the missionaries, especially those performed at night, Paula which they believed to be filthy. As a result, the dances were either rebranded or reinstate by modern dancing style to conceal them (11-12).

Sample types of Samoa dance with a brief description


Maualuga, according to Tamara means skipping, is believed to be the core factor of all dances within the customs. It is used to wrap up wedding ceremonies and other festivals. This dance is a solo performance, performed by a daughter or a son of a village chief. Its performance is accompanied by drum beats, tradition clothing (sewn cautiously with hands), other costuming includes; coconut shell, boar tusk necklace, brightly dyed feathers, and headbands. This dancing style was holy to Samoan people given that traditionally only virgins were allowed to play it, but nowadays virginity is not necessary.


Sasa dance is alternatively known as “lap dance.” Men engage in slapping their legs, chest, and arms, in addition to clapping their hands, in a harmonized rhythm. Sasa is used to be performed in large groups of people until recently where few men are being involved. The dancers wore lavalava clothing and perform the dance in a unison motion. The feet are pounded down in a hopping movement to create a rhythm for the song. The motions also involve jumping forward and backward while moving the feet the same time. As feet create musical rhythm, they slap their chest with their hands for the rest of dancing. The slaps are normally “fast and crispy,” as defined by Tamara, producing a loud and clear sound. Slaps, kicks, and jumps in this dance make its performance live to the audiences (Tamara).

Manu Siva Tau

Manu Siva Tau is a traditional war dance believed to motivate and energize the warriors, and currently used by Samoa’s sports teams like rugby, before every game.

Fire Dancing

Fire Dancing is performed both in specialized dance products and ceremonial dances. The dancers did acrobatic movements while twisting the fire knife. The dance was designed to illustrate the power of the young warrior. Knife dance movements include running, (mo’emo’e) which indicated success in traditional. The head movement or Diego was deployed to gesture how warriors used to puzzle their rivals and foot stamping which signaled intimidation. Other locomotion was twirling knife around their neck, via the legs and around the back and the ankle (Tamara).


Another dancing style is Siva. It is not only a word for dance but also it refers to the style of dancing. The performers usually stand and present a daily activity. The dancer normally wears a tiger, which is a headband made of human hair and feathers.

General features of contemporary Samoan dancing styles

Most Samoan dances exist in a large number of dancers and minority solo dances. Entertainers are both female and male with performers allowed to conduct most dancing styles in either distinctive gender groups, or mixed group. Performers are normally organized into columns and rows, in group dancing, especially when performing in mixed company where gender segregation is taken as the arrangement of dancers.

In group dances, there are fewer body movements whereby dancers only move a few steps in any direction. Unlike in solo dances, where body movements may be intensively be used. The locomotion in the upper half of the body is mostly emphasized especially in the arms and hand gestures. Throughout most dances, the torso is usually held upright, with legs bend. The dances are seldom presented as a single item, instead; its dance consists of a sequence of dances. The dances have an introductory or start a piece, called laulausiva, and concluding the piece, known as Maualuga (Radakovich, 12, 78, & 79).

Annotated bibliography

Radakovich, Jennifer. Movement characteristics of three Samoan dance types: Ma’ulu’ulu, Sasa and Maualuga. August 2004. Web

This scholarly research was conducted by Jennifer in collaboration with opinions from Fisher, Zile, and Mayer in the year 2004. This makes it a reliable and current source of reference since the author holds a master degree of arts in dance from the University of Hawai’i. The research does not explore quite a wide range of dancing styles, but it has illustrated the changes that have taken place in the Samoan dance. It further provides information concerning body movements accompanied the dance.

Warta, Tamara. Samoan dance.

The report was written by Warta Tamara. The exact date of publishing is not well indicated, instead, the author has provided arrange between, 2006 to 2011. The author’s qualifications are unknown, but he has vividly explained the different dancing style of Samoa dance.


Radakovich, Jennifer. Movement characteristics of three Samoan dance types: Ma’ulu’ulu, Sasa and Maualuga. August 2004. Web <>. December 4, 2011

Warta, Tamara. Samoan Dance. 2006. Web <>. december 4, 2011.




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