An intrinsic part of the Cook Islands’ Polynesian culture is their dance and experiencing this is a must-do for any visit to these beautiful islands located in the South Pacific, between Hawaii and New Zealand.

Cook Islanders are hugely proud of their culture and heritage and dance is an important way of teaching cultural values and historical events not only to visitors but also to local younger generations to ensure that they are kept alive and not forgotten.

Once of the most popular Cook Islands dance focuses around the beat of a drum. There can be up to ten drums that compose the beat for the ura pa-u (drum dance) and these can be of varying types, from a skin drums to wooden tokere (slit drums) of different sizes. Cook Islanders are considered the best drummers and dancers in Polynesia.

Both men and women participate in these mesmerising fast dances. The women, who wear coconut bras, grass skirts made from beach hibiscus which has been dried, stripped and dyed and decorated with flowers, shells, feathers and seeds and decorated head bands, appear graceful even though this is an incredibly energetic dance. Their fast hip-swinging actions incorporate moves such as the totoro (dancing/walking while crouched close to the floor), ‘four-square’ patu (a jerky movement where a ‘square’ is formed with the hips), the ‘cobra’ ura akaparu (a snakelike movement from the waist down through the lower body), and the ‘Hollywood’ (one arm and one leg on opposite sides of the body thrust out in the final move.

The men also wear the grass skirts, which are accessorised with headdresses, arm bands and leggings which are tied at the top of the calf, all are made with natural fibres. Their moves are focused around scissor-like flapping of the legs in a semi-crouched position while holding their upper bodies steady.

To see the very best of Cook Islands dance, visit during Te Mire Ura, the Dancer Of The Year competition. This is an annual contest held in Rarotonga to celebrate individual Cook Islands dance talents. Dozens of dancers in three age groups, junior, intermediate, and senior open, take to the stage at nightspots on Rarotonga and the outer islands. Finals are then held at the 2,000 seat National Auditorium in Rarotonga under the direction of the Ministry of Cultural Development. The event took place on 26th and 27th July, the winners of which were siblings who are dance leaders for dance groups on the island.

Next year the event will take place between 23rd April – 6th May. For more details see

For more information on the Cook Islands go to


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