Dancer and choreographer, Jackie Tuara, has a deep passion for Cook Islands dance. She has danced for as long as she can remember, including with the Ta’akoka Dance Troupe.
“The dancer expresses the meaning of songs and drum beats. The spirit runs free, you can be spontaneous and get caught up in the moment,” said Jackie.
“I enjoy the creativity of choreography and costume making, and seeing it develop into reality on stage. That is what Te Maeva Nui (a popular annual national celebration held in July/August) is for me - an exciting journey shared with many people who make that whole final performance happen”.
Jackie has been involved with the Cook Islands biggest annual celebration, Te Maeva Nui, since 2001, this year as cultural coordinator for Vaka Takitumu Dance Team.
She has also assisted contestants in Miss Tiare, Miss Cook Islands and Miss South Pacific prepare for the competitions: “Working on choreography for talent sections, designing and making costumes, chaperoning and working with the girls to bring out their best qualities, giving them the confidence to step out into the public arena”.
Born and bred on Rarotonga, Jackie went to New Zealand to gain her Bachelor of Arts degree.
“After graduating, I lived on Manihiki with Raymond, my then partner, now husband, and his family working on their family pearl farm.
“After two years, I returned to Rarotonga to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as International Relations Officer.
“In 1998, Raymond and I went into business. With his vast experience in the pearl farming industry and my two years working a pearl farm labourer, a business in pearls seemed inevitable!”
They started Ora Moana Ltd, a pearl industry wholesale company, and Moana Gems retailing fine pearl jewellery: “Raymond takes care of the wholesale and I look after Moana Gems”.
Seven years ago, Moana Gems was refurbished to become Moana Gems Pearl and Art Gallery.
“We now also sell men’s jewellery and Cook Islands works of art by Judith Kunzlé and Allan Tuara”.
Judith Kunzlé lives in Hawaii today, but she spent many years in the Cook Islands studying Polynesian dance.
“I met Judith in 1990. Discovering I was a dancer she asked me to sit for her holding dance poses. I helped Judith understand the dance movements. These sessions were studies from which she developed her Cook Islands dance works of art on paper and canvas.”
A visit to Moana Gems Pearl and Art Gallery is a pleasant experience.
Jackie has some advice for people wanting to invest in genuine Cook Islands pearls.
“Always ask for a Certificate of Authenticity guaranteeing the quality, shape and size of the pearl you have purchased and that it is indeed a Cook Islands Black Pearl."
Visit the Moana Gems Pearl and Art Gallery website, or drop in to the showroom located uptown Avarua, opposite the Makea Nui Ariki Palace.