Dancing was a common entertainment on festive occasions, such as a marriage. Some of their dances were in the daytime, and, like dress-balls of other countries, were accompanied with a display of fancy mats and other Samoan finery. At the night assemblies the men dressed in their short leaf aprons. Sometimes only the men danced, at other times women, and occasionally the parties were mixed. They danced in parties of two, three, and upwards, on either side. If the one party moved in one direction, the other party took the opposite. They had also various gesticulations, which they practised with some regularity. If, for example, the one party moved along with the right arm raised, the other did precisely the same. It was posturing rather than saltation.
Singing, clapping the hands, beating time on the floor-mats, and drumming, were the usual musical accompaniments. Their music, on these occasions, was a monotonous chant of a line or two, repeated over and over again, with no variety beyond two or three notes. They sought variety rather in time. They began slow, and gradually increased until, at the end of ten or twenty minutes, they were full of excitement, the perspiration streaming down, and their tongues galloping over the rhyme at breathless speed. For a drum, they had two or three contrivances. One, a log of wood six or eight feet long, hollowed out from a narrow elongated opening on the upper surface; and this they beat with a short stick or mallet. Another was a set of bamboos, four feet long and downwards, arranged like a Pan’s pipe, having the open ends inclosed in a mat bag, and this bag they beat with a stick. A third kind of drumming was effected by four or five men, each with a bamboo open at the top and closed at the bottom, with which, holding vertically, they beat the ground, or a stone or any hard substance, and as the bamboos are of various lengths, they emitted a variety of sounds. At these night-dances all kinds of obscenity in looks, language, and gesture prevailed; and often they danced and revelled till daylight.
Court buffoons furnished some amusement at dancing and other festivals, and also at public meetings. If a chief of importance went to any of these assemblies he had in his train one or two humourists, who, by oddity in dress, gait, or gesture, or by lascivious jokes, tried to excite laughter.
Boxing and fencing were common on festive days, and often led to serious quarrels. In fencing, they used the stalk of the cocoa-nut leaf as a substitute for a club. Women, as well as men, entered the ring, and strove for the fame of a pugilist.
Wrestling was another amusement. Sometimes they chose sides, say four against four; and the party who had the most thrown had to furnish their opponents with a cooked pig, served up with taro, or supply any other kind of food that might be staked at the outset of the game. A supply of some kind of food was the usual forfeit in all their games.