Dances of Life
55 min Documentary directed by Emmy Award winner Catherine Tatge, director of photography Philippe Charluet, produced by Dominique Lasseur and Shane Segar and for PBS (USA) in conjunction with Pacific Islanders in Communications
4 years in the making, this documentary looks at the resilience and strength of Pacific cultures as represented by their traditional dances. For nearly 50,000 years, dances and songs have been an expression of Pacific Islanders’ origins, their journeys, their struggles – their very existence. These are their dance stories. The program journeys to five cultures: Maori (New Zealand), Samoan, Palauan, Chamorro (Guam), Kanak (New Caledonia) with glimpses from Salomon and Cook Islands – to reveal the cultural history and diversity of the Pacific Islands.
At the Festival of Pacific Arts in Palau, male dancers from Kiribati, clad in shell necklaces, traditional skirts, and brandishing colorful spears, dance to ancient drums and chants. They are on a stage fringed with gelled spotlights, amplifiers, monitors, and stand-up Cerwin-Vega speakers.
It’s a moment in Dances of Life that captures the dichotomy between Pacific Islanders’ earliest cultural traditions and the modern world in which they live today.
“We are very fragile,” Togna Octave, general director of the Tjibaou Cultural Center in New Caledonia, says in the film. “They always say modernity is like a steamroller. And in all the small societies like ours the steamroller has already rolled over us. If we can come out of this with a toe unscathed, well, that’s the greatest victory we could have.”
Front video: Maori excerpt
Make the earth tremble
As hard as we can
I am doomed! I will die!
No I am alive! Life is mine!
I will be defeated! I will die!
No! I take back my life. Life is mine!
I am born of distinguished people
Whose legacy shines on me like the sun.
Keep abreast! Keep abreast!
In your ranks hold fast! Into the shining sun!
Maori War chant
DVD available on Amazon
International Cultural programming (New York)
in collaboration with
ICP Media and Pacific Islanders in Communications (Hawaï)
Director of Photography
SHANE PALUSI SEGAR
CARLYN L. TANI