I am standing under a huge Mango tree near a rugby field in Nuku’alofa. Team Tonga plays team Samoa. The game is fast, despite the heat and the exposure of the playground to the blazing sun. It is a complex choreography of passes, runs and dodges, a simultaneous co-existence of elegance and brutality. A strange mixture for me who grew up on fair-play soccer! One of the Tongan girls has it. Whenever she has the ball, it’s a score for sure. Once the ball is seized by the iron grip of her arm it will only release its embrace behind the goal line. I am quite surprised to see this player later that day on a dance stage.
“It’s like everywhere” she says smiling, exposing four golden front teeth which were presumably knocked-off in another game. “Everyone here has two or three jobs.” Her dancing is equally amazing than her rugby play. Thrusting, very distinguished arm gestures change in a split of a second into an intricate play of hands, commented by a diversity of precise head tilts in various angles. Then, something unexpected happens. A man with an impressive belly walks towards the dancer, staggering. The moment I think he is going to run her over like the Samoan girls tried before in the game, he pulls a 5 dollar note out of his pocket and sticks it to the dancer’s forehead. “That’s a way of honoring the dancers” my local friend tells me. “It’s called fakapale.”
As the man has put a first note, other members of the audience get up and walk up to her, more money in their hands. To stick the money onto the dancer’s body turns out to be a tricky interaction. The donator has to know the choreography very well for when it is a good moment to approach the dancer. Otherwise, one of the dancer’s arm gestures might knock him down. Eight men are standing in a circle around her, waiting for the right moment to enter the dancer’s sphere. It looks as if the eight men were about to feed a wild animal. Now the dancer slows down in pace to facilitate the men sticking their money onto her. Ironically, the slower pace produces less sweat so all money bills fall onto the floor which becomes slippery for the dancer’s steps. I am happy that the music stops and the dance is over.
What was supposed to be an expression of honor for the dancer looked to me like trying to choke the choreography to death by money. “You palagi” the dancer laughs at me as I share my thoughts with her after the dance. “You always draw wrong conclusions. Dance is just like rugby: You’re tackled, you’ll adapt!”
Later in bed I have a bizarre dream. I dream of my dance company dancing on a rugby field in front of a team of faceless numbers, with Arnd Wesemann being their captain. My company tries to keep up with the choreography while the opponent interferes with elbows, knees and feet. Slowly, the numbers’ team advances the goal line. I wake up sweating, starring at a 2 dollar note that has glued itself onto my leg.
Dienstag, Februar 15. 2011
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