Male and female dance styles differ greatly, although their actions are synchronised and use similar shapes to evoke the words and feelings of the music to which they are dancing. Women's hand movements are generally slow and graceful, similar to the shapes made in Samoan or Tongan dance, and with their feet almost together, they make a subtle shuffling movement in time to the music, shifting weight from one foot to another. On the other hand, male movements are usually more vigorous and defined, with a more dramatic shifting of weight from one foot to another, enabled by having their legs usually further apart and somewhat crouching, such that the man half of a tautoga usually appears lower than the female half.
Sua normally consist of four-verse stanzas, whose texts allude to the occasion. The music consists of a single phrase in duple meter, repeated many times. All performers sing the same melody, but in parallel fifths: the women take the upper part; the men, the lower. Often, singers sound other notes, to create three- or four-note harmonies.
As in the sua, the women remain stationary while performing the tiap hi; they confine their movements to graceful, subtle hand motions. The men may jump from side to side, or in circles. In the tiap hi, the contrast between women's constraint and men's vitality becomes strongly marked. In one version of the genre, the men maintain a textless drone, while the women sing four or eight verses, recounting legends. In the sua and the tiap hi, each of the first three rows of dancers takes its turn in front; after completing a set of verses, the dancers in the first row drop back, to permit the row behind them to come forward (Hereniko 1991:128-130).
Tiap forau offer a performative contrast: sua and tiap hi have a more restrained character; but lively yelping and clowning punctuate tiap forau. Spectators may spontaneously get up and join in the performance. During the dance, the back row splits: the men come down one side of the group, the women down the other, until they join in front, replacing the first row. The process continues until each row has had its turn in front. Songs usually acknowledge distinguished personages, especially the chiefs acting as hosts; the texts praise people whose labors have contributed to the event (Hereniko 1991:130-131). Many tiap forau are in duple meter, but some are in compound triple meter (transcribable as 6/8 time).
Tautoga may include from one to three sua, one or two tiap hi, and two or more tiap forau; for a complete performance, at least one example of each type must occur. A group of elders provides accompaniment for the sua and the tiap forau: with wooden sticks, they beat on a pile of folded mats. They begin each dance by introducing the song, and take responsibility for sustaining the rhythm and tempo.
In the late 19th century, a missionary described the songs of tautoga as sung in unison, except when both men and women participated. In the latter case, the men sang in a lower range, about a fifth lower, without following the melody closely. The rhythm changed little between the different songs. Most were characterized as "andante," but some songs, on humorous themes, were "allegro." The melody consisted of three or four different notes, the first note repeated three or four times, followed by a note a third higher, returning to the first, again repeated three times, followed by a higher or lower note, finishing with "an unharmonious flat note" (Müller, cited in Gardiner 1898:491).