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Tongan Courses | Matavai Online

Tongan Courses

Learn dance styles from the Kingdom of Tonga. The courses from Tonga include Tongan Tau’olunga Open Age Beginners and Senior Intermediate. Students learn how to perform an entire tau’olunga, as well as cultural information about Tonga.

Choose the course and level you wish to enroll in. Videos are pre-recorded and released weekly so you can complete course at your own pace.

All our dance courses include;

This is the introductory level. Tailored for students who have little to no experience in pasifika style dance.

This level is for students who have some knowledge in pasifika style dancing or who have completed level 1 in previous terms.

This skill level is reserved for people who have danced in this style before or who have completed level 2 in term 3.

Students will learn about Tongan culture through Faiva (dance) in particular a Tau’olunga will be taught, as well as teaching and refining technique. Our Tongan department is run by two passionate teachers Lesieli Emelio and Elain Middleton.

Gender: Female | Ages: 4-13 yrs | Term Length: 9 weeks
Price: $104.05
Instructor: Elain Middleton

Level 1


Tau’olunga Level one- Beginners– Taught by Elain Middleton

Students learn a tau’olunga that can be performed at an event, as well as cultural knowledge which includes geography, traditional costumes, traditional food, traditional items and iconic Tongans and more. Students also learn basic Tongan words.


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Level 2

Level Two- Juniors (4 years to 13 years)– For students who completed Level One beginners. Students will learn a Tau’olunga and cultural knowledge which includes Social Hierarchy, Cultural protocols, costume making, sustainable practises and more.


This level is for junior beginners ages 4- 13 years. For students ages 14+ please enrol in Level 2- Beginners/Intermediate Open age course with Lesieli Emelio below.


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Tongan Beginners Instructor

I started dancing when I was able to stand, I was put on the floor to dance around for the family and continued from there in the Tokaikolo Christian Church.

Students will learn about Tongan culture through Faiva (dance) in particular a Tau’olunga will be taught, as well as teaching and refining technique. Our Tongan department is run by two passionate teachers Lesieli Emelio and Elain Middleton.

Gender: Female | Ages: 14+ yrs | Term Length: 9 weeks
Price: $104.05

Instructor: Lesieli Emelio

Level 1


Tau’olunga Level one– intermediate taught by Lesieli Emelio

This course is for students with Tau’olunga experience or who have completed beginners course level one. Students will learn a Tau’olunga, perfecting techniques and cultural knowledge which includes geography, Traditional costumes, traditional food, traditional items and iconic Tongans and more.


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Level 2

This level is for students who have completed level one beginners or who have experience in Tongan faiva (dance), this level is also for older students from 14 years plus.


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Tongan Intermediate Instructor

Lesieli started dancing when she was aged four at Tongan functions, Tongan united church and Siasi Tonga Tau’ataina. She was taught by Punake Sione Vatuvei.

Taught by Fine Taulanga Rosen- Tongan Language Course will be live zoom sessions.

The first class will be Saturday 27th February (AEDT- Australian eastern standard time) at 10.30am

Gender: All | Ages: All | Term Length: 9 weeks
Price: $104.05

Instructor: Fine Rosen

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Tongan Language Instructor

Fine Taulanga Rosen was born and raised in The Kingdom of Tonga. Specifically living on the islands of ‘Eua and Tongatapu. Fine has an Associate’s Degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management from Trident Technical College in South Carolina, USA. Growing up in a family that respected the Tongan traditions and culture.

Poetry in motion: Studies of Tongan dance

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  • Corpus ID: 190407995
@inproceedings{Kaeppler1993PoetryIM, title={Poetry in motion: Studies of Tongan dance}, author={Adrienne L. Kaeppler}, year={1993} }
  • A. Kaeppler
  • Published 1993
  • Education

Inner Exhilaration and Speaking Truth through Metaphor: An Exploration of the Theological Significance of Māfana and Heliaki in Tongan Dance

  • Kelly Johnson-Hill
  • Philosophy

  • 2008

Tonga is one of the few Polynesian nations in which dance has not, for the most part, become commercialised. Even when it is performed for tourists, Tongan dance is defined by certain key concepts,…

L’esthétique du don polynésien

Les discussions autour de l’Essai sur le don de Marcel Mauss ont largement continue d’alimenter la reflexion sur les echanges economiques en anthropologie au cours des dernieres decennies. Des…

Recent reports on literacy in Tonga (The World Bank Group, 2012) define and assess Tongan students’ literacy rates within a framework largely developed outside of indigenous onto-epistemological orientations to literacy, focusing nearly entirely on functional literacy. Acknowledging the cultural imp

  • Education

  • 2019

In this paper, we discuss Heliaki, the use of metaphoric language in Tonga (Kaeppler, 2007), and its relationship to literacy. Viewing Heliaki through the lens of critical literacy (Freire & Macedo,…

A Sea of Voices: Performance, Relations, and Belonging in Saltwater Places

A faint early morning glow lit the horizon across the sea. Poised on the calm ocean waters, a dozen sails began their approach to shore (see Figure 1). It was just before dawn on Sunday, 22 May 2016,…

Du corps à l’image. Repenser les performances culturelles en Océanie à l’ère de la mondialisation

  • Aurélie Condevaux, G. Roux, Laura Schuft
  • Art

  • 2016

Dans une ere de mondialisation et de nouvelles technologies de communication, et dans le fil d’histoires profondement coloniales, comment se pensent et s'organisent les performances culturelles en…

The body and its image: reinventing cultural performances in Oceania in an era of globalization

  • A. Condevaux, G. L. Roux, Laura Schuft
  • Art

  • 2016

In an era of globalization and new communication technologies, and in a present profoundly marked by colonial histories, how can we consider cultural performances in Oceania today? What do the…

Te Kauhiva Tokelau: Composing and Choreographing Cultural Sustainability

  • C. E. Steiner
  • Geography

  • 2015

Le patrimoine culturel immatériel à Tonga et ses médiations touristiques

  • Aurélie Condevaux
  • Political Science

  • 2014

L’apparition de la notion de patrimoine culturel immateriel (PCI) est parfois decrite comme participant a l’emergence d’un « nouveau regime de patrimonialite ». A partir de l’exemple du lakalaka…

Dancing with cultural difference: Challenges, transformation and reflexivity in culturally pluralist dance education

  • L. Ashley
  • Education

  • 2013

In this article I describe aspects of an ethnographic inquiry in which I investigated the challenges faced by some New Zealand teachers when teaching about culturally different dances, an expectation…

Comedy, Stigma and fakasesele: Contesting ‘Mental Illness’ in Vava’u

  • M. Poltorak
  • Art

  • 2011

Hau‘ofa’s aside begs the question, “Positive for whom?” In Vava‘u, people su" ering from “mental illness” bene# t from a ! exibility of truth and the contestability of Tongan terms used to describe…

Lakalaka | this.

.. What is Lakalaka?

Performing the lakalaka dance. Tongan dance

The dance, presumably, was formed as a result of the synthesis of several ancient Tongan dances, primarily meelaufola (Tong. me'elaufola), meutuupaki (Tong. me'utu'upaki; a male dance performed with small canoe oars) and faahiula ( Tong fa'ahiula, a female dance that used complex hand movements). [2] Despite some differences, the meelaufola dance played a decisive role in the formation of the lakalaka, which was banned with the advent of Christian missionaries on the islands of Tonga. The main difference was that meelaufola was an informal dance performed separately by men and women and accompanied by drum music, while lakalaka is considered a formal dance performed by men together with women without musical accompaniment. [3] The exact time of the appearance of the dance is unknown, but presumably it appeared in the late 1870s and early 1880s. By the mid-1880s, lakalaka had become widespread throughout the islands of Tonga. [2]

The dance directly reflects the structure of the official Tongan speech and consists of three parts:

  1. fakatapu (Tong. fakatapu), the introductory part, which expresses recognition to the representatives of a certain lineage. The fakatapu used at the beginning of the lakalaka depends on the status of the speaker and the group that will perform the dance; [4]
  2. the main part of the dance, which reflects the theme, information about events, the genealogy of individuals, myths and the history of the village and other information;
  3. tatau (Tong. tatau), the final part, in which the performers say goodbye to the audience and again bow to the leaders of the village. [5]

In fact, the main person in the dance is the so-called punake (Tong. punake), who is also a poet, composer, choreographer. Lakalaka is performed by both men and women, usually from the same village (their number sometimes reaches 400 people [6] ), who line up in two rows: women on the left, men on the right. At the same time, the arrangement of people in the ranks reflects the social hierarchy that exists in the village. So, in the center are men and women who occupy a high status (for example, the children of the leader, the director of the school, etc.). Closer to the center are persons of ceremonial servant status. In the third position are the best dancers of the village, and at the edges of the first row are other persons revered in the village because of their rather high status. [5]

During the dance, which begins with poetry, the performers practically stand still, only making special movements with their hands, which should reflect the meaning and meaning of the poetic words [7] , while men make fast and energetic movements , and the women perform a graceful dance with elegant hand movements (thus giving the impression that two different dances are being performed). [6] Leg movements in lakalaka are minimal, especially for women who take only a couple of steps to the side and back and forth. Men, on the other hand, are more free in their movements: they can bend over, twist, lie down on the ground. [5]

Lakalak spectators are not without participation. During the performance of the dance, they owe the so-called fakapale (Tong. fakapale), or gifts to the dancers. As a rule, these are bast fabric, mats, long pieces of European fabric, and money. [5]

In every village, the lakalaka is performed at least once a year and is usually timed to coincide with major celebrations, such as the coronation day or the birth of the Tongan monarch. In addition, the dance is performed at other public events (for example, during the opening of some important building or a village festival). [5]

In 2003, UNESCO recognized the lakalaka as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” . [8]

  1. Lakalaka (English). Palace Office of Tonga. Archived from the original on April 23, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2010.
  2. Theresa Buckland.
  3. 1 2 Dancing from past to present: nation, culture, identities. Studies in dance history. - Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2006. - S. 34. - 245 p. — ISBN 0299218546
  4. Elizabeth May, Mantle Hood. Musics of many cultures: an introduction. - University of California Press, 1983. - S. 138. - 434 p. — ISBN 0520047788
  5. Paul Spencer. Society and the dance: the social anthropology of process and performance. - Cambridge University Press, 1985. - S. 103. - 224 p. — ISBN 0521315506
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Adrienne L. Kaeppler. The Tongan Lakalaka: Sung Speeches with Choreographed Movements. The Regional Meeting on the Promotion of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for countries of Europe and Northern America. Kazan (Russia), 15 - 17 December 2004. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  7. 1 2 Weavers of Song: Polynesian Music and Dance. - Auckland University Press, 1999. - S. 137. - 556 p. — ISBN 186940212X
  8. Elizabeth May, Mantle Hood. Musics of many cultures: an introduction. - University of California Press, 1983. - S. 139. - 434 p. — ISBN 0520047788
  9. Proclamation 2003: "The Lakalaka, Dances and Sung Speeches of Tonga" Intangible Cultural Heritage - ICH. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2010.

Kailao -

Kailao is an imported Tongan war dance from the neighboring islands of Wallis and Futuna.


  • 1 story
  • 2 sipi tau
  • 3 vocals
  • 4 Notes and references
  • 5 See also


Kailao are usually held in public and private ceremonies. The men, who carry stylized sticks called pate kailao , dance furiously in imitation of combat, accompanied by a metal drum or percussion that sets the pace. Unlike other Tongan dances, kailao is performed without singing. The sequence of movements that the group must perform is dictated by the leader of the dance, who gives the name of the sequence and tells when to start. The dance demonstrates the dancers' discipline, obedience and their skill with weapons.

A similar Rotuma dance, also derived from the Wallis dance, is also called ka'loa .

Sipi tau

Students of Tonga College dance kailao for the 70 - anniversary of the king (1988).

SIPI tau is a dance performed by Tongan rugby and rugby teams before each match, as is the kailao uniform. The song was written by King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV in 1994, but its origins are older.

Tonga until XIX - th century, there was no dance war. In fact, talking was considered a sign of weakness in combat. However, in 19th - th centuries, war dance was introduced to Tonga from the neighboring islands of Wallis and Futuna, which were quickly invaded by Tonga. The Tongan team used various kits sipitau, but it is not known when they were first used in rugby. The last version was written in honor of a successful tour of New Zealand at 1994 year.


Tongan lyrics:

(Leader): Teu ke tau!
Teu lea peas tala ki mamani katoa
Ko e 'Ikale Tahi Kuo halofia.
Ke 'ilo 'e he sola mo e taka
Ko e 'aho or u te tangata tamate,
"A e haafe mo e tautua"
Kuo hu'i Hoku tangata anga.
(Leader): Hey! (Leader)
(Leader): Hey!
Teu peluki and milk fueti taka,
Pea Ngungu mo ha lotto fita' has
(Leader): Ngungu!
(Leader): Ngungu!
(Head): Ko Tonga pe mate ki he moto
Otua mo Tonga ko hoku tofi'a
(Leader): Hey!

French translation:

Ready for battle!
I will talk to the whole world.
A sea eagle is starving to death.
Let the stranger and the visitor be warned.
Today I am the destroyer of souls everywhere.
Running to back,
I am no longer human.
Hi! Hello !
Hi! Hello !
I scythe a sledgehammer and strikers
And bite all the hard hearts you know
This is how Tonga dies for its currency
God and Tonga are my heritage

Notes and links

  • (fr) This article is taken in whole or in part from the English Wikipedia article titled " Kailao " ( see authors list ) .
  1. ↑ Adrienne L. Keppler, Poetry in Motion: Studies in Tongan Dance , Vava'u Press, (ISBN 982-213-003-1)
  2. (in) " Sipi Thau in Tonga illuminates Mount Smart Stadium: it was a dizzying moment that started the historic rugby league clash in Tonga and Australia. ", at, The Daily Telegraph (Australian newspaper) , (accessed 18 February 2019d.) : "Captain Tonga Sika Manu has previously spoken of the meaning of 'Sipi Tau'." “That means you will fight for your country and die for your country,” says Tongan skipper Sika Manu. "
  3. (in) John O'Sullivan, " Artistic Merit: Tonga War Dance ", The Irish Times , (read online consultation 19 September 2020) .

See also

  • Hack from All Blacks
  • Cibi
  • Shiva tau

Indigenous cultures of Oceania

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