Mangrove Bay hosts Tahitian and Comedy contest – Yapese “fire dancer” takes top dance prize

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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
November 25, 2016
Pohnpei—The Mangrove Bay Hotel and Bar held a unique Tahitian and Comedy competition that attracted huge attention in Pohnpei this evening. Parking was wall to wall and late comers might have found it difficult to find a parking space at all.
11 people registered for the Tahitian or Hula dance competition. Nine dancers showed up. Three registered for comedy but one backed out.
Dancers quite often danced in groups together but each individual performer was judged by the five member international panel of judges. In the Tahitian competition Oscarson (Ozky) Ikalap won the top prize with his stunning fire dance. Molisi Joli won second place, and Mayboleen Santiago took the third spot.
In the comedy competition, Scott Shanahan won for his gritty and sometimes just on the edge of mean, comedy performance. Alona Tate took the second prize.
Due to a prior commitment with the Australian Embassy we were not able to photograph all of the competitors. But Tony Cantero said the event was so successful that Mangrove Bay Bar will be having another competition next month.
A few days after the competition we contacted the most unique performer of the evening, Ozky Ikalap to find out how it was that a young man who had grown up in Yap had acquired the skill of fire dancing. Fire dancing is not a Yapese traditional dance. It is Polynesian.
Before coming to Pohnpei to study liberal arts at the College of Micronesia FSM, he’d only been out of Yap when he was selected as one of the Close Up students to visit the United States while he was in High School.
We organized a special photo shoot on the causeway and spent a lot of time together trying to get it planned and organized. During a lunch at Oceanview, the young man who will be 23 by the time this newspaper is published told me that when he was 12 or 13 years old, his uncle Ray came back from the University of Hawaii having acquired the fire dancing skill while he was there. He started a small Polynesian dance group. Ozky was the youngest in the group and though he practiced with them he wasn’t able to perform publicly with the group until he was 14. During that performance he burned himself but he didn’t give it up. He said that he never burned himself again and learned to work with the fire instead of against it.

He’s mastered that technique. When we did a photo shoot on the causeway, the wind was whipping over the water and blowing the fire toward him. He never flinched. Instead, he seemed to have a quiet communication with the fire.
“People ask me why I do fire dancing. They say, ‘I would never want to do something like that’. Okay, that’s what I want to do.” he said with a sly grin.
Though the art of fire dancing is Polynesian, Ozky has made it his own. He says that his performances are different than the strict Tahitian style. He performs to combinations of techno, reggae, hip hop, skanking, Tahitian and other styles of music to make the performance uniquely his own.

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“It’s all about the feeling. I need to be able to dance to it,” he said.
He says that he and the two girls who danced with him at Mangrove Bay Bar, Sarah Elma Rieuo, and Lexina Marolrang came up with their prize winning routine in the week before the competition at Mangrove Bay.
Ozky’s performance is stunning. Most fire dancers long ago abandoned the use of gasoline as the fuel for their torches in favor of white gas or other fuels. But none of those fuels are available in the FSM so he has simply made do. He said one of his proudest moments was when his uncle told him after seeing him perform at the Yap Games, that he had taken “this thing” (fire dancing) to a whole new level.
But fire dancing isn’t all that Ozky is about. He is a good student and says that he carries a 3.5 average. He has participated in just about any sport one could imagine, “except for golf. I’ve never played golf,” he said. His muscular body shows that he is a weightlifter and once competed in the sport. FSM’s famous weight lifter, Manuel Minginfel was his coach.
He’s an extremely outgoing and friendly young man who says that he has fallen in love with Pohnpei and intends to stay after he finishes his last semester in the spring at COM-FSM.
Like many of the students at COM who come from islands other than Pohnpei, he has just barely enough money to scrape by after his Pell Grant pays the college and dorm bills. He hopes that people will hire him to perform at parties and events. Anyone wanting to contact him can do so at the COM-FSM men’s dorm. He doesn’t have the money to travel home for the Christmas break.
Tony Cantero, Manager of Mangrove Bay Bar says that they have hired Ozky to perform once a month. His first performance there will be on December 23.