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The Most Frightening Dance You'll Ever See

Ed note: This post has been sponsored by the Warner Brother's film Invictus, out on DVD and Blu-ray on May 18th. Be sure to keep an eye out for a rugby quiz tomorrow, and if you haven't already, enter our best-rugby-stories contest here.

by Chris Connolly

The haka is the most frightening dance you'll ever see. And that's its purpose. It is a Maori war dance, and each violent movement is designed to intimidate the enemy.

haka.jpgLined up in rows facing their opponents, dancers chant and stomp passionately while slapping their elbows, chests, and thighs. They bulge their eyes, wag their tongues, and twist their faces into scowls. To dance the haka, one needs to exude total confidence and commitment, and for years, it was the ultimate way for the Maori to ready themselves for battle.

Before New Zealand was colonized in the mid-1800s, the Maori used the haka to prepare for intertribal warfare. But after the British moved in, the dance found a new purpose—helping to fire up rebellions against Europeans settlers. Unfortunately, the dance was no match for their enemy's firearms. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Maori had lost most of their ancestral lands, and their culture was quickly fading. War and sickness had whittled down their population to fewer than 50,000 people.

Fortunately, a resilient group of Maori leaders emerged from this bleak landscape to defend their people's way of life. Specifically, an inspirational activist named Apirana Ngata engineered reforms that increased Maori political power and preserved Maori customs. Slowly, results began to show—and the proof was in the haka.

all-blacks.jpg

In 1905, New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team (above) performed the dance as a warm-up while on tour in England. The team, which included both Maori and white players, represented all of New Zealand, and so did the haka. Some members of the British audience were baffled and outraged by the chant, but most appreciated the power of the ritual and the way it excited players and fans alike. Since then, the haka has become not only the All Blacks' trademark, but also a symbol of New Zealand unity. The dance is performed at government functions and cultural events, and it's even returned to the battlefield, albeit in a different form. The New Zealand military has scripted its own haka, which begins and ends with performances by female soldiers, as a nod to their role in protecting the country. The dance that used to stir men to war has become a symbol for equality and peace. Once a show of Maori defiance, today, the haka stands for New Zealand's solidarity. [Image courtesy of Archives.govt.nz.]

The Rugby Salute to Women

There have been many variations of the haka throughout history, but the most famous is the All Blacks' trademark rugby dance, Ka Mate. It tells the story of a great Maori chief named Te Rauparaha and his daring escape from a rival tribe. While hiding in a sweet potato pit, Te Rauparaha's enemies began chanting incantations to draw him out. But before the magic could take effect, the wife of a friendly chief blocked Te Rauparaha from the spells using the potent power of her female sexuality. Te Rauparaha was saved, and he was so thrilled by his narrow escape that he composed Ka Mate. The lyrics were later adopted by the All Blacks for their pre-game haka, and a tradition was born. When performed by 20 or more heavily muscled rugby players, this tribute to women is one of the most compelling sights in sports.

Don't Mess With Texas' Haka

Sports teams are some of the most superstitious groups in the world. If something works for one team, you're bound to see others trying out the same thing. So it has gone for the All Blacks' rugby haka. Nowadays, copycat dances have emerged in some unexpected places—from the University of Hawaii to the Mormon haven of Utah's Brigham Young University.

Perhaps most notable, however, is the hakamania of Euless, Texas. During the past 20 years, about 4,000 people migrated there from the Pacific island nation of Tonga, but they never quite felt like they belonged. That is, until the glorious day when their sons and grandsons began warming up Euless' Trinity High School football games with the haka. Tonga and Maori share a common Polynesian lineage, so the new residents felt right at home. Before long, Texas football fans of all races were chanting the words in unison with the players and sporting T-shirts that read "Got Haka?" The dance promoted team unity and, apparently, also terrified the competition. In 2005, Trinity High School won the state football championship. Here's a recent clip:

See Also: The Rugby Rivalry that Brought New Zealand to the Brink of Civil War

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travel
The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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Pop Culture
The House From The Money Pit Is For Sale

Looking for star-studded new digs? For a cool $5.9 million, Top10RealEstateDeals.com reports, you can own the Long Island country home featured in the 1986 comedy The Money Pit—no renovations required.

For the uninitiated, the film features Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as hapless first-time homeowners who purchase a rundown mansion for cheap. The savings they score end up being paltry compared to the debt they incur while trying to fix up the house.

The Money Pit featured exterior shots of "Northway," an eight-bedroom estate located in the village of Lattingtown in Nassau County, New York. Luckily for potential buyers, its insides are far nicer than the fictional ones portrayed in the movie, thanks in part to extensive renovations performed by the property’s current owners.

Amenities include a giant master suite with a French-style dressing room, eight fireplaces, a "wine wall," and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. Check out some photos below, or view the entire listing here.

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

[h/t Top10RealEstateDeals.com]

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