Beginning with a thumping reo tupuna emphasising adherence to the traditional ways and laws from the leaf-clad people of Pukapuka-Nassau, the night moved on to an ute performance by bright-blue Manihikians that had the crowd first laughing at a diver “paddling” slowly across stage on a wheeled cart, then gasping as handfuls of pearls, not to mention a few necklaces and/or bracelets, were cast out wide to the waiting audience.
This was followed by what seemed a rather warlike ura pau by Takitumu, performers chanting in front of an ominous-looking red-lit backdrop, the auditorium set echoing to what sounded like battle drums.
Tupapa Maraerenga were next with their ute, the women shining in their black-and-gold bodices, while one black-and-white-wearing performer in particular garnered whoops of appreciation from the crowd as she strutted her stuff across the stage.
An ura pau from Tongareva took us into intermission, their costumes making probably the most immediately striking impression of the night up to that point, thanks largely to the spectacle of their amazing headdresses and shoulder pieces.
Returning from the interval, spectators were treated to an extended performance from a New Zealand kapa haka group, complete with poi, patu and taiaha a-twirling.
This led into an atmospheric and haunting reo tupuna by the Aitutaki dance team, moon hanging in a blood-red sky behind them as they brightened up the stage with their colourful costumes.
Nikao’s ute on the other hand, despite being themed around a night when ghosts are out and roaming, was perhaps the most rousing performance of the night so far, a happy toe-tapper that spread its good vibes throughout the crowd.
Palmerston’s simpler costumes seemed to me to find favour with the audience for their reo tupuna, and the appearance of a “turtle” slowly making its way across the stage only to be eventually captured and held high drew plenty of good-hearted appreciation.
Next was Puaikura’s kapa rima, the only one of the night, which got off to a great start. The performers really gave it their all with beautiful singing and beautifully presented costumes.
Finally, as if saving the best for last, Atiu’s energetic and extremely well-put-together ura pau drew wild appreciation from all those present, bringing the night to a fitting and memorable end.