“The Origin of Dancing”- Cook Islands

Did you ever wonder how dancing started? Well, here’s a story from the Cook Islands that will tell how the people learned to dance. The legend comes to us from the book, Tales Told in Hawaii. Enjoy!

The Origin of Dancing

When Koro was a small boy his father, Tinirau, used to go away in the night and not return for days. He never said where he went nor did he ever offer to take his son with him. Little Koro did not like this. One night Koro stayed awake and followed his father. He saw him climb a coconut tree without touching it with his chest or his left hand, throw down coconuts, husk them, scrape out the meat, and wrap it in a broad taro leaf.

Tinirau carried the coconut meat to the beach and Koro heard him chant as he scattered the coconut over the waters. Koro listened with all his mind so that he might learn the sacred words.

At the feet of Tinirau gathered the fish of the shallows, then the fish from the reef, then the monsters of the deep. “We have come to the feast, Tinirau, King of Fishes,” they cried. As the chants ended the Sacred Isle left its home at the reef and floated to the feet of the king. As Tinirau stepped upon the island half of his body, from head to foot, changed to that of a dolphin. All of the fish changed into half-human form and they put on pandanus wreaths and danced around their king, who danced with them as the Sacred Isle floated away. Koro was surprised and delighted to know that his father was king of fishes.

The Origin of Dancing (Cook Islands)

“The Origin of Dancing,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2019.

Tinirau returned in a few days wearing a fragrant pandanus lei. The next time he went away Koro followed him again, listened and watched.

Eager to see if he too had power over the fishes, Koro set out on the following night. He climbed the coconut tree as his father had done, carried the meat to the beach and chanted the sacred words as he scattered it. The small fish gathered at his feet, then the larger fish, then the monsters of the deep. Among them was Tinirau, who cried, “So you learned my secret! Come and dance in the moonlight.”

After that Koro often went with his father to the midnight dances of the fish. The people of Mangaia will tell you it was from Koro that their ancestors learned the art of dancing.

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