On Wednesday night, the blue carpet was rolled out for the big night, where the 39-year-old Hawaii native, trident in hand, proudly shouted the Māori chant. The dance is intense and mesmerizing, involving a number of postures and gestures. In the dance’s final moments, Momoa snapped his trident in half. Some of the cast members, including New Zealand native Temuera Morrison, who plays his father in the film, participated in the special moment.
This particular haka is “Ka Mate,” which was written by Te Rauparaha, a Māori war leader, to celebrate escaping his enemies, according to Vulture. After the performance, ET’s Nischelle Turner spoke with Momoa about the dance, and he said that, for him, it is about honoring his heritage and the sea.
“It’s just a respect to the god of water,” he said. “It’s a very intimate dance about where we find our mana from our ancestors, our mind, our body, our spirit, from our heart.”
“Mana” is a Polynesian/Māori word for otherworldly power. Considering Aquaman is a superhero who draws his strength from the ocean, Momoa’s own interpretation of this haka couldn’t be more appropriate.
Viewers of the footage will notice that two children also participated in the dance. Those are Momoa’s son and daughter, Nakoa-Wolf and Lola, ages 9 and 11.
When asked when they learned this particularly dance, Momoa explained, “They just learned right now. They’ve done a lot of hakas. I used to do them when I was little, too, so they knew it and then we just added two together so they already had it down.”
Check out the full performance above.
Aquaman arrives in theaters on Dec. 21.