The crowd gets silent in anticipation.
A fast drum beat quickly erupts from the percussionists. Three children walk on stage in cultural, Polynesian garb, visibly nervous.
They begin a swift dance, reflecting the pitch and speed of the drummers. As the drummers speed up, their heartbeats quicken in unison with their gyrating hips and outstretched arms.
The dances are not choreographed and the performers let the music be their guide.
“We call it mana, the spirit of the dancer,” said 14-year-old Maryana Farrell, who organized the dance competition with her family and is a dancer herself.
As swiftly as it started, the dance stops as the children hold an outstretched arm to the judges and audience.
The crowd goes wild as the smiles on the children gleam brighter than their neon regalia.
This scene was repeated over and over again in various age brackets at the sixth annual Te Mana Ori Tahitian Solo Competition at Castaic Middle School on Saturday.
Over 100 performers from all over California and Nevada dazzled an audience of some 300 spectators.
“We want to bring our culture out here,” said Farrell.
The Polynesian culture, especially Tahitian culture, pervaded much of the school during the event, as vendors sold items indicative of the culture while people walked around in the cultural garb.
The details are important when it comes to their clothing. Many of the dancers wore flowers, but they had to be the traditional tropical flowers.
Some of the dancers were seasoned veterans that had danced in more competitions than they can count while for others, this was their first competition.
One such beginner was Granada Hills native Bethany Lazo, 25. She has been dancing for a year now and after encouragement from her teachers, she decided to participate in her first competition. She even made it to the finals.
When walking up to the stage, she does not know what dance she is going to perform. She lets the music lead the way.
“It was kind of like what came to me,” she said. “The whole point is going up there and feeling the music.”
Lazo said she had an amazing time at the competition and is already looking forward to coming back next year.
“I’ll be back here for sure,” she said with a wide smile stretched across her cheeks.