Our afternoon swim came to a close, and just as we’d settled down in our respective bunks to read our books, we hear Lizzie knock on Sonrisa’s hull. “Bonjour, Bonjour! Hello!” This time, standing behind her is both Mama Manihi and Sylvainn. They are all dressed up, and Mama is carrying two flower wreaths and four flower leis!
“It’s time to go to the Ball!” Lizzie explains.
Town had been buzzing for a few days about the upcoming “Ball.” Posters explained that dinner and a DJ would be there, but we didn’t know whether anyone could go or if it was for a particular age range, etc. Apparently, we were invited. We excuse ourselves to get a little more dressed up, then climb over Sonrisa’s rail and onto land. Our friends adorn us one by one, and as the flower lei slips over my neck, the I smell the scent of Manoi flowers that will always be French Polynesia to me.
“Lizzie picked all the white flowers she could find to make Andrew’s wreath!” Mama Manihi explains as Andrew ducks his head into the crown in LIzzie’s hands. She smiles.
“Wow,” He says. “Marourou Roa!”
Once we are all properly adorned, we walk the handful of blocks to the Ball and pay our entrance fee. Tables are set up beneath tents. Dinner is served, and a small bar is providing wine, beer, and sodas. In the center of the square of tents is a dancer floor with plenty of space to get your moves on. Everyone in town is there from age 5 through 85, everyone wearing brightly flowered sarongs, pearls, and their own wreaths of fresh flowers. The whole room smells glorious. And, in our flower wreaths and leis, we fit right in.
We acquire a bottle of French Bordeaux and take a seat at a table with Mama Manihi and Sylvainn. Lizzie bounced away to find her friends. For the first while, little kids have the run of the dance floor, but soon, they spotted us and dragged us out to join them. These little Tahitian kids could dance.! The girls have already learned to shake their hips like the Tahitian ladies in grass skirts. The boys, can also cut a rug employing the fancy footwork of the best ballroom and swing dancers I personally know. (Which might not be saying much, I guess.)
They are shocked learn that none of Sonrisa’s crew are as skillful as they are in the dancing arena. Children, ages 5 though 8 gather us together and lead a tutorial on how to shake our hips while alternately opening and closing our knees. They get down on all fours and thrust their hips in an uncomfortably provocative manner. One by one, they up the ante on the seductive moves they wish for us to try. Eventually, the little ones were reasonably satisfied with Crystal and Kevin’s moves and so shifted their focus to Andrew and I.
Dancing with our typical bee-bopp, bounce around, off beat style, two little ones aged seven tug on our hands and shake their heads. “No, no, no! Pas comme ca! Pas comme ca!” (Not like that, not like that). Instead, they demonstrate. The boy separates his legs, the little girl steps with one leg between his legs, the other leg spread outside his legs. They begin grinding their hips together, just like they do in the clubs in Vegas. “Comme Ca!” These miniature club-bound humans tell us. I am laughing so hard, I can’t even stand up let alone dance. Where in the world did these tiny creatures learn such a thing!? Andrew and I make an awkward attempt to imitate their instructions, and our failure to execute stresses the children out. One little boy smacks his forehead, “Non!” They demonstrate their dance moves a second, third, fourth time, trying to get us to understand. Both Andrew and I are laughing so hard we cannot dance anymore; the children concluded we were a lost cause. Apparently, the bottle of wine did not help.
A bevy of grandmothers are equally concerned with our lack of Tahitian Approved dancing skills. Pretty soon, I find myself dancing with a woman of unidentifiable age somewhere between 55 and 75. She is holding one of my hands in the air, swaying her other hand next to her hips. Her Tahitian hips swish right and left, right and left. I have never been quite so seduced. After a while, she takes the hand she is holding and turns me toward Andrew indicating “Now, you guys”. Andrew would start dancing, and she would shake her head. She would take my hand again and show him how to dance with me. Hips, knees, hands floating and swishing. “Now, you guys.” Eventually, she too, laughed and shook her head. Another hopeless case.
Around midnight, the wheels on the American bus were falling off, but the adults of Manihi were just getting started. I was introduced to “John” who wanted to dance with both Crystal and I. With footwork rivaling Dancing with the Stars, John took off spinning us here and there. Ballroom and swing survived the ages and the adult contingent are even more accomplished dancers than the little ones! Even our arm wrestling friend Mateau could dance.
Around 1 a.m. we were worn out. We called it a night and headed back to Sonrisa, but we were the first to go. As we left, we asked Mama and Sylvainn if they were headed home soon, but Mama said “No, he loves the music.” He was smiling and jamming in his wheelchair. Even my dancing Grandma was holding out. The next morning, when I asked June and Fataiou how long they stayed at the Ball, they confirmed they were out until 5 a.m.! Mama and Sylvainn stayed out until 3 a.m.! Amazing. These people can really dance!