Cook Islands: Dancing to the beat of a Pacific drum

By Jim Eagles

Jim Eagles cannot resist when a pretty girl invites him on stage.

Kate Ngatokoroa, former Miss Junior Cook Islands and Te Vara Nui's star dancer. Photo / Supplied
Kate Ngatokoroa, former Miss Junior Cook Islands and Te Vara Nui's star dancer. Photo / Supplied

I was carefully not catching the eye of any of the dancers, who were moving among the audience at Te Vara Nui Village, when there was a tap on my shoulder.

Having no sense of rhythm and being among the worst dancers on the planet it was with great trepidation that I turned around.

Behind me was the beautiful smiling face of the troupe's star dancer, Kate Ngatokoroa, a former Junior Miss Cook Islands, asking, "Would you like to dance?"

My wife smirked.

Up I went on to the floor where one of the muscular male dancers showed me and a guy from the next table what to do. It seemed to consist of bending my legs, then waving my knees in and out as fast as I could, while making arm gestures similar to a haka.

Then our lovely captor stood in front of us, the drums began their rapid beat, she swayed her hips to and fro while I tried to do the same with my knees.

Actually I don't think I was too bad, or at least not as bad as I expected, and my wife reckoned I did very well ... for someone who can't dance.

In any case, I was saved from any embarrassment when the guy from the next table put on a spectacular display which allowed me to avoid attention.

In fact, he was so good I suspect he must have done Te Vara Nui's village tour before and got in a bit of practice.

In the village, with its stone marae and traditional huts, visitors can learn about carving and weaving, medicines and magic, tattooing, fishing and coconut husking.

After that there's the show, performed on a stage surrounded by water, with traditional dancing incorporated into a story that, on the night we went, told of a great navigator arriving on the shores of Rarotonga and being allowed to stay because of the great beauty of his daughter, my dancing partner Kate Ngatokoroa.

It was all too believable. Anyone able to get me up and dancing would have no difficulty charming the population of an island.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand/a> flies from Auckland to the Cook Islands six times a week. Air Rarotonga provides links to many of the other islands.

Where to stay: Pacific Resort Rarotonga is next to Te Vara Nui Village.

What to do: Visit Te Vara Nui Village.

Further information: See cookislands.travel.

Jim Eagles visited Rarotonga with help from Cook Islands Tourism, Air Rarotonga and Air New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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