An Introduction to Samoan Custom
CHAPTER IX — Dances and Entertainments
Dances and Entertainments
A discussion of dances and other entertainments is likely to include so many references to the groups of young people and others in the village that it will be useful to examine first the constitution of some village organisations and the status of certain individuals. References have already been made to the taupou, the aualuma, the manaia and the 'aumaga, and it is now necessary to explain these terms a little more fully.
The taupou is usually the daughter of a chief. Not all chiefs, however, are entitled to make such appointments which in most cases date from a time far in the past when some old king or political organisation gave this privilege to selected chiefs as a reward for services in war or to mark the occasion of an important marriage. One does not, therefore, find a taupou in every village. The taupou title passes on the marriage of the holder to some other girl who is usually, but not necessarily, another daughter of the chief but who should at least be a member of the family in question. Where, however, the chief has a daughter of suitable age she would normally have the best claim to the appointment. Although it is likely that a young girl of grace and modesty will already have been selected quietly and trained for the position, the family must meet to decide formally on whom the title is to be conferred, for this is not an honour that the chief can bestow personally. When agreement has been reached and after the necessary preparations have been made, a day is fixed for the saofa'i, just as in the case of the election of a matai to any other family title. Those concerned assemble in the guest house of the chief, and, in the course of speeches and a kava ceremony, in which the cup is served first to the taupou, the title is conferred and a feast follows. Representatives of the village are also present; they are interested because as a ceremonial figure the taupou enjoys a status and undertakes page 109 duties that are recognized by the entire community. The taupou, dressed in ceremonial costume but without the tuiga, sits on this special occasion in the place in the house reserved by custom for either a leading chief or orator, depending upon the practice in the particular family and village concerned. The feast is, of course, supplied by the chief and others of his family, the village attending this part of the function merely as guests.
After this ceremony the taupou is free to assume her title or sa'oaualuma name. She ranks thereafter as the head of the aualuma, wears the tuiga on the prescribed occasions and leads the various sections of the village when they present ta'alolo. She also takes her place in the 'aumaga for the preparation of king's kava if her village and district are entitled to perform such a ceremony and in any case will prepare ordinary kava whenever the importance of the visitors or of the occasion warrants her appearance. After her appointment she comes under the special care of an old lady who is either the widow of a chief or the wife or widow of an orator. Sometimes this old lady actually lives with the family of an important taupou, sleeping with her and accompanying her on any work walk or other excursion or on visits to the bathing pool. The guardian is responsible for the virtue of her charge and has also special authority to give intructions to the aualuma about activities of that organisation. She is the practical, and the taupou is the ceremonial, leader of the aualuma.
Although some features of the old ceremonial have now yielded to Christian influence, marriages in important families provide widespread interest even at the present day. In the past the union for political purposes of a wellknown taupou with a leading chief or manaia furnished the setting for a degree of ceremony that often required the active co-operation of the whole village. A famous taupou might be courted for years by parties from many villages, each vying with the other for the distinction of the match and the distribution of valuable property that invariably accompanied the wedding itself. The various stages in the courting were marked by lavish presentations of food. The chief or manaia anxious to win the favour of a taupou sent food gifts with courting parties from his village, the principals generally remaining behind at first, but gradually increasing the amount of the food sent and the importance of the orators pressing the suit until it appeared good policy to appear and urge it in person. As circumstances required, orators or others were left behind in the lady's village to page 110 report progress and protect the interests of their principal, and to judge the time that would be suitable for the launching of a visit of the entire village with gifts to support the claims of their chief or manaia. Such a respectful and expensive step as this was decided on only after the most careful consideration of the family connections both of the suitor and the lady, and was required only in those cases where the village and family of the taupou felt that, in view of their own social status, they could safely hold out against the earlier proposals. The wedding itself called for the co-operation of all members of both families in different parts of the country if they wished to seize the opportunity of demonstrating their relationship to such distinguished principals. In the old days, groups of orators related to important chiefs deliberately searched out eligible taupou for the purpose of arranging political alliances with families whose contributions on the female side often amounted to many hundreds of fine mats. These were passed over to the male side for distribution amongst the orators and others who had been instrumental in arranging the match or furthering its progress.
Under the old conditions the aualuma, drawing its membership from the daughters of chiefs and orators, generally lived with the taupou in the principal guest house of the village. When this was required for the accommodation of numerous or important visitors, the aualuma broke up temporarily, and the girls, then living in their separate families met for the purpose of arranging hospitality and entertainment for the guests. While the girls were living together in the guest house they were visited from time to time by unrelated young men or small parties of visitors from other villages who, in accordance with custom, brought food to assist in the maintenance of the aualuma. At night, dancing, singing and stories whiled away pleasant hours. If a large malaga party visiting a village included another aualuma, the latter were entertained by the local young men in a separate house while the aualuma hostesses devoted themselves to the male guests. The old lady in charge of the taupou and aualuma was always present at these gatherings. As stated in a previous chapter, there are now few villages where the conditions of true aualuma life are maintained with all the old strictness.
The aualuma under the direction of their elderly leader and the taupou engage together in feminine activities including fishing for shell-fish and the small things of the sea termed figota, the collection of thatching and weaving page 111 materials, the making of lau and pola, or house-blinds, for village purposes, and the manufacture and dyeing of bark cloth. All these things that are made under communal conditions are for village rather than for family purposes. These activities usually take place in the fale lalaga, the house where all the weaving work is done. Occasionally the aualuma may even work on the manufacture of fine mats which are put aside when completed for the use of the taupou on ceremonial occasions in which the whole community are interested. The aualuma also assist in meeting the various demands that the entertainment of guests imposes on the village, and in the old days, when ceremonial and political weedings of taupou were more common than they are now, they had a great deal of group work to do.
Although the taupou usually joins in all activities or excursions of the aualuma, she does not, in order to preserve as far as possible the fairness of her skin, expose herself unduly to the sun and the wind; and although she must be careful to participate in all group activities, especially those that relate to the entertainment of visitors, she enjoys a certain exemption from the type of heavy work that would be likely to detract from her appearance or roughen her hands. These are kept soft by the application of coconut oil.
Girls join the aualuma at the age of about 13 or 14 years, and leave it on marriage. They then become members of the Women's Committee, an organisation which, in the last two decades, has gradually taken the place of the old assembly of the wives of chiefs and orators (faletua ma tausi), or even of the aualuma itself. Since the institution of the Native Medical Practitioner system, the Women's Committees have assumed some at least of the functions of public health and baby welfare organisations and they do a great deal of useful work in this respect. They take their full share also in the provision of food for and the entertainment of visitors, often providing separate ta'alolo and dances.
The manaia is a chief's son chosen in circumstances somewhat similar to the appointment of a taupou except that the occasion does not call for the same degree of ceremony, and there are no personal manaia titles, although there are certain customary modes of referring to the manaia of different families. Any chief who for traditional reasons is entitled to have one of the girls of his family appointed as a taupou may also call a selected son a manaia. page 112 If there is no son of the chief available, the appointment will fall on another boy from the same family.
It is a prime duty of the manaia to attend most diligently to serving the chief. He must join in the preparation and cooking of ordinary foods, but must be particular also to see that there is plenty of special hot food, cooked by him personally, available for the meals of his chief. During the stay of visitors, he extends his service to include the comfort of the guests, that the latter may think well of their hosts, and it is he for instance who should make taufolo for any titled visitors who are assembled with other chiefs and orators of the village. He is a member of the 'aumaga although he does not lead it, and it is part of his duty to assume ceremonial dress including the tuiga when leading a ta'alolo of the village or district. If his community is entitled to prepare king's kava, he will be a member of that 'aumaga. With others of the village he is also responsible for his personal share in the entertainment of visitors and the provision of sufficient foodstuffs for their comfort.
Even before they reach the age of puberty and for the greater part of their lives, Samoan custom enjoins on brothers and sisters the practice of a ceremonial avoidance. In these circumstances the manaia has no personal responsibility for the care or protection of his sister who is a taupou but he would, of course, be prompt to defend her good name if this ever came into question. This custom of avoidance as between brother and sister will be discussed more fully in a later chapter.
The 'aumaga is the assembly of all the young men and untitled males in the village however old the latter may be. The leader of the 'aumaga is termed the sao'aumaga and is the son of the leading orator of the village, not the manaia or other son of a chief. Under the old conditions of life in Samoa a young man joined the 'aumaga after he had been tattooed; in earlier custom an untattooed young man was not regarded very seriously either by his fellows or the girls of the village. There are still some communities that adhere to this rule, but now that the practice is less general, the young men join the 'aumaga in their middle or later teens. Although this organisation has always been an extremely potent factor in village affairs, there is no formal initiation ceremony. This is worthy of note in a society that makes so much of ceremonial. Even in the days when tattooing was considered essential, the preliminary arrangements and the operation itself, during which women could page 113 be present, were informal. No segregation was required at any stage.
The members of the 'aumaga were never accustomed to sleeping together in one particular house as was the practice of the aualuma. Small groups of the younger members, however, often slept in one house called the fale moe, and larger groups at the present day, if they propose to make an early morning start on a fishing or other excursion, may sleep in the same house as a matter of convenience. The whole 'aumaga assemble in order to perform those duties that are required for village rather than for family purposes. They fell bush for new taro land and make the taloloa or village taro patch, and when the first fruits are ready they must co-operate in bringing taro and other foods for a feast to be enjoyed by the chiefs and orators of the village. Thereafter, the young men of each family may use taro from their allotted sections of that plantation to meet domestic requirements. When special circumstances call for a common effort, the 'aumaga fish together for village purposes under the leadership of the head fisherman (tautai); usually the matai themselves are pleased to join in such a communal activity. Indeed, there are times when every able-bodied person in the community is called upon to help. The 'aumaga also assist with the building of churches, pastors' houses or any other village houses for school or similar purposes. They take care of the village fautasi and build or repair pig fences or those enclosing the cemetery area. Like the aualuma, they must bear their share in the entertainment of village guests; they supply dance items to follow ta'alolo, and must fish and cook for functions such as church subscription lists, and at any time when the village is full of people from distant parts of the country.
But there is a right of the 'aumaga that has a political and sociological, rather than a merely social or economic significance. The members of this organisation have the right to attend any important fono or meeting of the chiefs and orators. They sit quietly either in the back of the house, if there is room, or crouch down outside on the house pavement if there is not. They are available to assist in serving kava or to perform other services as required, but a more important and far-reaching result of their attendance is that they are thereby enabled to learn something of the “words” or traditional stories and genealogies of their village and district. They study too the forms of Samoan rhetoric and styles of address, and on page 114 other occasions when they meet on their own business, individuals may model their style of speaking on that of some orator or other speaker by whom they have been impressed.
Dancing and its concomitants, music and singing are recreations to which a light-hearted people like the Samoans could be expected to turn naturally. Both sexes participate, either together or in separate groups, and there are no bars save those that very high rank or infirmity impose; indeed, in the humorous aspects of dancing, some of the oldest performers can be, by local standards, the most diverting. There is little or no formal teaching of the basic principles involved; inexperienced performers learn by watching the evolutions of those who are older, either by joining in the informal dancing of young people on moonlight nights, or at larger gatherings in guest houses when visitors are present. The order and co-ordination essential for group performances are achieved in the course of painstaking rehearsals.
It is a characteristic of Samoan custom that attractive aspects of an introduced or contiguous culture are quickly assimilated into the local background with significant modifications. This shaping of new elements into something with typical Samoan features has occurred with religion, games, music and dancing Even generations ago observers noticed and recorded an early and a late style in Samoan dancing. In watching dancing, it is especially difficult for the newcomer to be sure whether or not he is seeing something typically Samoan. Because the people themselves find them entertaining, Hawai'ian and Tokelau items have tended in recent years to creep more and more into local dancing programmes arranged for Europeans. Krämer tells us that a song he sang personally in Samoa in 1894 was in 1896 used extensively by the Samoan concert party in Berlin in an almost unrecognizable form. Even at the present day, rednerings of the national Anthem are occasionally a little difficult to recognize. Churchward has written that shortly after the adoption about 1884 by Samoans in Apia of the English game of cricket, both sexes all over the country were playing it with enthusiasm, but in a somewhat different form. Other innovations are occasionally absorbed with less modification. An English tune or some of the words may survive, or perhaps even gibberish be incorporated into a song or dance if the result can be made to appear sufficiently amusing.
This peculiar Samoan genius for modification should not be held to suggest any inherent incapacity to absorb page 115 new things in a given form; the tendency is rather the active expression of a vigorous and often dominant culture. Custom itself is far from being static, but some degree of Samoan form or structure is still considered to be the hallmark of worth.
Since most Samoan dancing, and indeed Polynesian dancing generally, depends for effect on mass movement as nearly as possible exactly synchronized, dances in which each individual plays a different role are comparatively unusual; but solo items in a fairly set pattern, or others of several individuals performing independently, are a common feature of the later phases of certain group dancing. Even in the latter type, however, there is opportunity for individual virtuosity if the grouping focuses attention on a central performer such as a taupou. Clowns or jesters, amusingly bedecked in whatever will call attention to their efforts to entertain, may go through a travesty of the graceful gestures of other performers.
If they follow a common procedure, the dancers form in two or three straight lines facing either the spectators or each other, but circular figures and movements in the later phases of the dance are now becoming increasingly popular. Gestures of the hands, arms, head and upper part of the body are rather more emphasized than steps. Some of the oldest and most typical present-day dances are performed seated, and even in standing dances of the older type the performers often do not change position a great deal once they have taken their places. Samoan dancing is graceful, and however rapid some of the movements may be, they are always under control. While the dancing of girls leans more to the decorous and dignified, the boys prefer vigorous movements that include the difficult co-ordination required for rapid rhythmical slaps on unclothed portions of the body.
Singing also finds its chief expression in group performances although part singing in which one or more voices commence in the higher registers and others join in a lower key are a characteristic feature. There is nothing, however, in the way of solo performance that matches the European. A few individuals may acquire reputations as good singers by local standards, or others may adopt this medium for transmitting traditions and stories in an easily memorized form. But it is in the true group singing with its outstandingly effective harmonizing, especially of male voices, that Samoan music achieves perhaps its finest expression. Songs are often composed by specially talented page 116 individuals for particular occasions, welcome, praise, politics, mild ridicule or perhaps even the punishment of an offender supplying themes. Pantomimic movements may illustrate the words.
Dancing and music in Samoa, like all the other popular activities of the people, are thus seen to be social rather than individual means of expression or entertainment.
A taupou in festive attire is a striking figure. Round her waist is wound a fine mat or a brightly coloured short kilt-like garment, together with a fau or leaf girdle or ribbon or paper streamers. In the past she appeared unclothed above the waist except for a necklace of flower or of the highly prized whale's teeth if her rank warranted it; such necklaces are still seen occasionally. Nowadays, however, she wears a bodice of leaves, bark cloth or brightly coloured material. Her wrists and ankles are adorned with shells, seeds, flowers or leaves, and her hands, arms and legs shine with coconut oil. Often, in place of the rare necklace of whale's teeth, the taupou wears one of pigs' tusks or imitations made of a certain kind of long flower petal or the more usual type of commoner blossoms. In her hand she may carry a Samoan beheading knife or club.
The costume is surmounted by the spectacular head-dress composed of five main parts. These are the base (laulau), the fuzzy decoration (lauao) of bleached human hair, the frontlet, orginally of nautilus shell (pale fuiono), the sticks (lave), originally three but now up to six in number, and the ornamentation of red parrot's feathers ('ie'ula). The sticks from a framework in which are inset numbers of small mirrors in place of the plaques of pearl shell previously used.
If the girl has long hair, this is piled on top of the head and the hair is then held down with a close wrapping of black bark cloth (laulau) or other material drawn up into a knot or “post” (pou). The human hair is first treated with coral lime and then rubbed with citrus juice before being bleached in the sun and rain in the various stages of a process that may take months or even a year. Small bundles of the finished article are tied together and then strung closel on a cord in a bunchy mass. Sections of the Tongan nautilus shell used to be ground carefully for the frontlet and fixed to a cloth base. These are rarer nowadays and pearl shell, buttons or other adornments are usually seen in their place. The bluish pearly lustre of the Tongan shell looks well, especially at a little distance. The sticks, worn upright and fanning out from the forehead, prevent page 117 the masses of hair from falling over the eyes. They are made of coconut leaflet midribs or small strips of timber wound about with bark cloth, adorned with brightly coloured rosettes or streamers of cloth or crepe paper and fixed to a base plate of wood or turtle-shell worn on the forehead. Closely strung lengths of the red feathers are draped over the hair and secured at one end to the base of a stick; but as the feathers are not easy to procure in these days this detail is often omitted.
The components of the head-dress are bound very tightly about the forehead in the order in which they have been described, building up a heavy and cumbersome structure that makes it inadvisable for the wearer to risk leaning far forward.
For ceremonial purposes, the chief or manaia dresses similarly except that he is unclothed above the waist; flower necklaces hang about his neck and he too is smeared with coconut oil wherever it can be applied. A heavy axe is frequently carried in place of the beheading knife, but short kilts are worn in the bright colours and materials that are favoured-by the taupou.
The dresses and adornments assumed for dancing or similar entertainments have little ceremonial or traditional significance; they are for decorative purposes only and to lend an air of festivity to the proceedings. There is therefore no restriction on new ideas, and anything fresh that is likely to look well is eagerly adopted and often makes its way in a short time to adjoining villages and districts. Girls residing in a convent dance in their school uniforms.
The taupou appears in her regalia for any dances that follow ta'alolo or similar presentations, but generally without the tuiga, which is painful enough to wear at any time and makes spirited dancing difficult or impossible. Women and girls wear the usual lower garment of bright colours ('ie lavalava), or perhaps the younger ones may appear in specially made kilts or bodices of uniform pattern assumed only for the dance. This basic dress is varied as much as possible to produce novel or striking effects. Girls will spend hours sewing leaf and flower bodices that serve their purpose for one entertainment only. Arms, ankles and wrists are bound with leaves or flower petals, and necklaces, girdles and chaplets are made of cotton material, leaves, paper streamers or sweet-smelling flowers like the frangipani. Anklets made of the hard bean-like tupe seeds are popular since the effect is both decorative and musical. Occasionally, special bodices are cut and sewn from page 118 print material or bark cloth. Girdles (titi) made from coconut leaflets or plain white or brightly dyed fau bast lend a colourful effect, and occasionally heavy kilts of similar material are worn to set off swaying or turning movements. Necklaces of imitation whale's teeth, flowers in the hair and black or blue moustaches or cheek daubings contribute to a festive appearance. One district makes a specialty of head-dresses somewhat in the fashion of the chieftain's head-dress among the North American Indians, with fowl or small birds' feathers fluttering from coconut leaflet midribs. The feet of the performers are, of course, bare. All are uniformly dressed and adorned since this adds to the effect which it is the purpose of the dance movements to achieve. The old practice of twining live snakes about the neck is not seen at the present day.*
Sticks or staves or split coconut fronds are carried either by boys or girls for various evolutions and these are sometimes decorated with leaves and streamers. Heads may be bound with strips of cloth or adorned with paper hats.
The dressing for night dances inside a guest house may be less striking, since leaf bodices worn for an afternoon performance may be no longer serviceable; but whatever is possible by way of adornment is assumed for the occasion.
Male dress is less elaborate than that for girls. Uniformly coloured or designed waist cloths with necklaces, girdles and anklets are usual, and the faces are often blackened or marked with moustaches † or the hair whitened with coral lime. The boys are generally bare above the waist and sometimes wear turbans.
Singing to guitars or to time beaten on tins, boxes, oil drums or rolls of mats by special assistants, clapping with flat or cupped hands and the tapping or rapping together of sticks, stones, tin plates or half sections of coconut shells held by the performers themselves help to achieve the desired synchronization. Most dances fall into a regular pattern and proceed through several phases, but there is still room for novel effects to be introduced and in the later stages at least an opportunity for a certain amount of individual expression by a few of the more accomplished performers.
* They were yellowish-green grass snakes, sluggish and harmless.
† The forms of the moustaches resemble the heavy style of the nineteenth century.
No single Samoan dance is likely to include all the figures or movements noted here; this is a composite description based on a careful analysis of many different items. They are all typical, however, of this particular kind of dance.
The dance commences with the girls seated cross-legged and facing the audience in two parallel lines, the taupou in the middle of the front row. Split sections of coconut frond midribs (lapalapa) for a later phase of the dance are laid on the ground before them. Old ladies walk up and down admonishing and encouraging. A song may be sung to the tune of a guitar and then the sitting dance commences. The rhythm is supplied from a roll of mats beaten with two short sticks by one girl seated out in front, two bottles within the roll of mats adding to the resonant effect. The performers themselves clap hands in regular beats to which movements of the crossed legs and knees correspond, slapping the hands or clenched fists on the ground and also on the knees and other parts of the body. A variation consists in pointing the fingers or in touching them lightly to various parts of the body in time to nodding or turning movements of the head.
A change of movement is heralded by a double beat on the mats, and arm and head movements are followed by turns of the body through a full circle ninety degrees at a time. The performers then recline sideways on one arm and stretch out the legs and the other arm in a further series of movements in time to the rhythm. They face in pairs rise on their knees, continuing the weaving and oblique arm movements, and after going through other figures while seated on their knees, they repeat the whole series leaning towards the other side. They then all rise to their feet, stamp in unison, clap hands in fast time and the first phase of the dance ends with a shout or acclamation.
In the second phase, the two lines stand and face each other after taking up the lapalapa or split coconut fronds. page 120 To the beat of the rolled mats, the girls mark time, stamp, hop and jump on one or both legs, and strike the clattering lapalapa against the disengaged hand. The lines open out and then close in, the dancers hopping and slapping the hands, legs and ankles and sides of the feet with the lapalapa. There is some changing of places, moving in circles and marching in and out and this phase concludes with another acclamation. Similar dances of boys or girls either with lapalapa, striking of sticks or clapping of half sections of coconut shells may introduce numerous variations of this theme. These and other evolutions supply the themes for successive phases.
In dances such as these, there may be one or more leaders who call the various figures to the dancers, and nearly always some old lady or ladies in comical dress who encourage or admonish the performers and cause much amusement with exclamations, comments or gestures addressed to the audience. Such observations are followed with delight and applauded loudly.
Most dances of this nature conclude with a special item of a different character termed the taualuga* or finale. The majority of the performers retire to the rear and sit in a close circle with musical instruments or a roll of mats in the centre, and with singing and hand clapping supply the time for individual dancing. This affords the opportunity for solo performances that are frequently of more than ordinary merit or, indeed, even virtuosity. If a taupou or manaia has figured in the previous stages of the performance, she or he will come forward now with a little bow to dance again, and a few others, including the clowns or buffoons who mock the principal performers, will join in. This type of dancing consists of arm, hand, finger, leg and foot movements, largely in the one position, but there is no attempt at co-ordination as in true group dancing. Facial gestures also figure in this display and some performers make a hissing sound. Others bend at the knees or over backwards, or stand on one leg while performing some of the evolutions, while a few add a clever display of knife twirling.
* This is the same word as is used for the ridging of a house.
A question often asked is whether the hand and finger movements particularly have any special ceremonial or traditional significance. If there were meanings in the past they have been forgotten now; it would seem, however, that they have never had any special significance, probably merely developing as individuality or virtuosity in dancing became appreciated.
There is more vigorous action in the dances of young men and boys although they are broadly along the same lines, except for the more masculine accessories such as axes and knives. The first phase of the typical sitting dance described above is, however, performed more usually by women and girls than by males. Boys often carry sticks and staves and fight mock battles, crouching and striking at each other in time to the rhythm or music. The typical axe or knife dance is exclusively masculine. The boys are armed with medium axes, bush knives or the Samoan steel, copper-bound, hooked beheading knife called nifo 'oti. Double or multiple lines, possibly led by a taupou or manaia and flanked by leaders who call encouragement or instructions, approach from both sides of the malae, crouching, stamping, gesticulating and brandishing axes or other weapons in both hands with the appropriate twirling movements. Suddenly, on a shouted instruction from the leader or a double beat on the tin from which the whole party are taking their time, they all step forward and, raising their arms on high, strike their weapons hard into the ground. They kneel and salute, rise and resume their weapons. The lines of dancers extend arms and axes to check their positions, and then face inwards and approach each other on guard, changing sides, side-stepping and performing exercises of offensive and defensive movements to time beaten with two sticks on a tin. After a series of twisting, guarding and striking movements in pairs, including feints or thrusts at partners who dodge or kneel to allow the axes to pass over their heads, the whole company make a pretence of cutting their own throats and then hop or march off with their weapons held at the present. A few may return at once to stage the taualuga or final item.
It is not easy to convey in a mere description an accurate impression of the effect achieved in such dances as these by the singing, the rattling of seed anklets and the synchronization of sound and spirited action.
On very rare occasions indeed, in order to pay a special page 122 compliment, chiefs may take part in singing or even in dancing in the open air. If they do so, the orators in the visitors' party should come out and join the dancers to express their appreciation.
There are other dances either by boys or girls that consist largely of marching or the formation of figures or poses. These are interspersed with hand clapping in time to beaten tins or slapping movements executed in pairs.
Singing and dancing at night for the entertainment of visitors or a large malaga party that has arrived in the village for the celebration of a wedding or a church function take place in the largest available guest house. The visitors seat themselves on one side and their hosts on the other, the various groups in each party, young girls, boys and their elders, arranging themselves conveniently together. Those for whom there is not room within crowd round outside.
The home team commences with singing to the tune of guitars or to time beaten on rolled mats, and later, when the crowd has warmed up, hand clapping will presage individual dances by several performers. Various home groups contribute singing and dancing items, the appreciation and excitement growing until the visitors also join in. They may be invited to do so by a dancer moving over to their side and placing his or her own necklace of flowers over the head of the person selected, a boy to a girl and vice versa. This is a complimentary invitation to dance and should not be declined. These are the times when individual dances achieve their chief expression. Reserve is put aside as the evening wears on and any shyness or diffidence falls into the background.
It is not only the virtuosity of an accomplished performer whose personal style has come to be well-known that is appreciated in this setting; the precocity of youngsters receives here one of its early and rare outlets. Generally speaking, individuality and precocity are frowned on in Samoan custom, which in most cases requires personal standards to conform to a type, but here a mere toddler may be willingly thrust forward to perform for a laughing and applauding audience. Even if very young children do not take part, one can see their bright eyes following every movement, hands clapping and bodies swaying to the music or the beaten time. The young, in these as in other cases, learn by looking on and observing, and, as occasion offers, by imitating. Informal dancing by young people on moonlight nights also gives them an page 123 opportunity to study the various arm, hand and finger movements and the other refinements of body slapping in an uncritical atmosphere.
The clowns and buffoons seen to such advantage in daylight group dancing are not so much in evidence in houses at night, the space being rather too restricted to permit of their caperings. But some old lady with a leaf or twig switch will be in charge and on the watch to press forward too diffident or unwilling a performer, or to check any rowdyism or lack of reserve that seems out of place in these days. Before the coming of Christianity there was a good deal more licence on these occasions.
There is another form of entertainment that allows expression to individual accomplishment although those who attain the necessary degree of skill are comparatively few. This is the individual knife dance, usually performed in the open air after a ta'alolo or similar food presentation. Great skill is required for such an exhibition item if the exponent is to avoid appearing ridiculous and especially if the figures he attempts expose him to danger. This is a more than usually good display of knife twisting, twirling, throwing and juggling, particularly a movement that calls for the weapon to be thrown high in the air and caught behind the back. Some performers kneel or lie down flat on the ground* while continuing their evolutions or pass the spinning knives through their legs. Others link two by the hooked ends and twist or juggle with the pairs. Good displays of this type are rare and are always well applauded.
A comparatively recent development in Samoan entertainment is the aisiga.† It is a village activity and considered a legitimate means of raising funds for any special purpose, such as, for instance, the building of a church or fautasi. The entertainment consists of a comparatively short programme of songs and dances and is especially popular at festive seasons like Christmas or New Year when carol singers operate on a similar basis. Occasionally, however, if the programme is an extensive one, the party may stay in the village overnight and continue their performance in the evening. They would not expect to do this without giving proper notice.
* They are careful while lying on the ground not to stretch out their legs in the direction of the principal spectators if this can be avoided.
† From aisi, to beg.
Samoan cricket has been popular for many years and is now assuming important social and economic proportions. English cricket started in Apia in the eighties of the last century, and with typical Samoan modifications, spread rapidly over Upolu, Savai'i and Tutuila. Both sexes participated and Churchward* relates that the game soon became a guise for political meetings or even the movements of war parties. Most villages now have their cement cricket pitches, and the opening of a new pitch is generally the occasion for a grand competition in which large teams from all over the country compete. Heavy entrance fees are charged and the prizes take the form of cash, banners, cattle, pigs, beef or tinned biscuits, the losers being required to pay a forfeit in the nature of singing and dancing items for the entertainment of the victors. More than one thousand pounds may change hands at a large gathering, for defeated teams are not debarred from paying further entrance fees and competing a second or even a third time. Formal notice of the competition is usually given well in advance, and the people of the village then have to work hard to provide all the food necessary for a meeting of three or four days' duration. The evenings are spent in singing and dancing.