If you are planning a visit in July, make sure it corresponds with the annual Heiva, which started back in 1881. The festival, which runs for a week and is held at Place To'ata in Papeete, is an iconic Polynesian cultural event showcasing dance, music and traditional sports, all of which have always held an important place in Polynesian communities. In ancient times, they were essential components of religious and political ceremonies. Dance was one of the most sophisticated and ritualized art forms performed in groups or individually. The dances performed during the week long event highlight the drama of an opera and the distinct imprints of an ancestral tradition. The dances are unique creations, for which the dancers train for six months or more. Text music, choreography and costumes are based on a historical or legendary theme and are often quite elaborate.