Primary Schools Traditional Dancing Festivities

Primary Schools Traditional Dancing Festivities
(Tongatapu, 26th – 30th November2007)


Throughout the main island of the Kingdom, 47 Government Primary Schools congregated in 13 locations and performed traditional dances to celebrate the end of the school year for 2007.

(Tongatapu, 26th – 30th November2007)

Throughout the main island of the Kingdom, 47 Government Primary Schools congregated in 13 locations and performed traditional dances to celebrate the end of the school year for 2007. Children aged from 5 – 12 years performed traditional Tongan dances including 'Otuhaka, Soke, Me'etu'upaki, Ma'ulu'ulu, Fa'ahiula, Kailao, Lakalaka, Siu'a'alo, Milolua, Tau'olunga, No'o'anga, Tafi and Mako. Other Pacific traditional dances performed include the Toso and Hula from Fiji.

The Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture and the Tonga Traditions Committee have been travelling throughout the week to each of the locations to record the performances and details of performers, dance practitioners and traditional clothes worm during performances.

The days were divided into three sessions (9.30am, 12.00pm and 2.00pm) and while there were 74 performances across the week, only 9 of these were Lakalaka. In 2003, Lakalaka, Sung Speeches with Choreographed Movements, was proclaimed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture and Tonga Traditions Committee took great interest in the Lakalaka performances as they face a great risk of disappearance. Since the 1960s, performances have dwindled in number. This decline can be linked to various factors including competition from contemporary forms of entertainment, economic difficulties, and insufficient emphasis in school curricula. Moreover, as Lakalaka has been transmitted orally, few publications on the subject are available. Unable to seek inspiration from ancient texts and other traditional cultural sources, young composers tend to recycle existing repertory rather than to create new compositions.

While it is a positive sign that Lakalaka was being performed by primary school students, only 3 of these performances were new compositions. Those schools that performed the Lakalaka included 'Atele (new composition), Fahefa (new composition), Kanokupolu, Navutoka, Kolovai, Talafo'ou, Ha'amonga, Kolonga and Nuku'alofa (new composition)

A positive outcome from performances was the support given by the parents to the children in learning traditional dances. It is hoped that their support, along with that of the Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture and the Tonga Traditions Committee will encourage and promote the safeguarding and revitalisation of not only Lakalaka, but all traditional Tongan dances.