Breathe in and breathe out…
Some people do yoga, some people go to the gym, some people pray too but with me, all those points are activated through a dance lens.
Someone I look up to who is a Samoan indigenous dance practitioner, Charlene Tedrow, shared this simple but beautiful talanoa (open-ended verbal exchange).
“Mindful practices with them like manava i totonu (breathe in), manava i fafo (breathe out), that really simple thing grounded them in, getting them to think about grandpa or grandma, nana in their head and boom… they’re centred”.
Through this task she’ll do these breathing activations with her students to get them grounded and centred. And once you are centred in your tripartite selves—fa’aleagaga (spiritual), fa’aletino (physical), fa’alemafaufau (mental)—then you will garner that re-indigenised healing and revitalisation of true innate connection that was lost due to colonisation in the Pacific.
So, through my dance practice, I talk about Siva Samoa (traditional Samoan graceful dance) and how it allows me to connect with the fluidity of gender and sexuality.
Ultimately, the practice gives me a sense of belonging and healing as with siva samoa the dance activation by Charlene is similar to yoga practices.
Siva Samoa training can have a physical gym-like element when you include fa’ataupati (slap dance) and se’e (foot glide). And combining it together rapidly can create that sweat you have when you go to the gym.
Even with Siva Samoa as a dance medium it can be another form of prayer. For me personally, I engage in what you call authentic movement. Famous Jewish mystic and healer Baal Shem Tov states: “when you wish to yoke yourself to the higher world, it is best to worship with your eyes closed”.
And encompassing that through movement, centring myself, and my innate senses connects through prayer vibrations that can be accessed through Siva Samoa.
People only see Siva Samoa as an aesthetic, but it also can activate healing that your body stores from past trauma or intergenerational colonial trauma if you are indigenous.
How do you activate healing within Siva Samoa?
By bringing your wholeness of culture and experiences at the forefront, not leaving it at the door, focusing on the breathing and mindful practises stated by Charlene, and closing your eyes and moving through a prayer sense (authentic movement) or in this siva (to dance) to how you feel. Forgetting about the aesthetic but focusing on the feeling, impulse, and internal connection to oneself. That’s when you activate transparency and ultimately healing when practised constantly.
For me, this practice is so rich, but the fact there is no literature that specifically talks about Siva Samoa is why I am embarking on my research journey centring this indigenous Samoan art form.
Once you get the healing, you then understand your belonging in your community. For me it is Samoa. Siva Samoa is a language that can connect you to culture even if your Samoan language fluency isn’t good.
Siva Samoa as you may see in functions, festivals, birthdays, but you also see them performed at a funeral as well. This is so profound and vivid as it is a life source of connection to the vā (in-between/interconnected space) of those that are living and are not.
Personally, it can activate emotions that can address how you are feeling inside. For me, if I can’t verbalise it, I embody it through Siva Samoa. And that indigenous connection reawakens my sense of belonging, knowing that this art form and dance medium can be used therapeutically as it releases emotion and trauma in a more healthy way.