(often written as upa upa) is a traditional dance from Tahiti
. It is already mentioned by the European discoverers, who described it as very indecent. It is not quite clear how close (or how far apart) the gestures at that time were with the now immensely popular tāmūrē
. In both dances the performers form groups of pairs of a boy and a girl, dancing more or less in sexually oriented movements.
After having arrived on Tahiti in 1797, the LMS
missionaries quickly intimidated the local rulers of the island and fixed themselves in a position of power. Although this enabled them to abolish such habits as infanticide
and tribal wars, it also enabled them to introduce the idea of sin
, which was unknown on Tahiti until then. The joy of dancing, so dear to the Polynesian heart, was one of the first to be axed. The famous Pōmare
code of 1819 declared the upaupa (and tattooing
in the same line) to be bad and immoral habitudes, severely to be opposed. The Leewards
followed suit soon after. But dancing continued in secret.
In the code of 1842 many restrictions were relaxed, but the upaupa (the general term for dancing then) remained on the black list. In the same year the French proclaimed the protectorate. Being Catholic with some broader views on life than the Protestants, and considering that 'if you cannot beat them, join them', they proclaimed in the official bulletin of 1849 that the upaupa was still forbidden, except on public feastdays, but... Read More