The Polynesian Music Ensemble, Beginning Hula, and Folk Dance of the Pacific classes joined together for a night of performances in the Aloha Center Ballroom on June 1. “I like that there are palangis and haoles who come here to study and soak in other cultures and not just surf,” said Jasmine Ta’ala, a sophomore who attended the recital.
Aunty Bobby, the dance instructor for the two classes, said the most challenging part of this semester was rehearsal conflicts leading up to Culture Night. She said because so many of her students were participating in rehearsals for the different associations, she was lucky if six or seven students showed up for their once-a-week class rehearsal. Once May rolled around, she said they could now focus and decided to move practices up to three times a week.
After an opening prayer, the night proceeded with intermingled performances from the MUSC 242R, EXS 183, and EXS 185 classes. Some of the dances were accompanied by the ensemble while others were from recorded songs.
Despite a couple technical difficulties with music being stalled or played at the wrong number, Wesley Kekauoha, a junior in information technology from Laie, said he thought the night went great. He said, “I think we did a fantastic job tonight. Everyone did their best and everyone brought their A-game.”
The night began with a performance from the Polynesian Music Ensemble, instructed by Edward Maiava. The ensemble members wore a mix of Polynesian apparel from the various islands and played instruments from the ukulele, guitar, and drum.
Kekauoha performed with the hula class. He said he enrolled because it was the only EXS class that fit in his schedule. After not performing for three years because of school and work, he said it has been fun returning to the dance floor.
“I really liked this class because I love learning to dance and I also got to make new friends. The late night practices were also fun, we would practice until 11,” said Kekauoha.
She said, “I really enjoy teaching them. I can see the final product and difference from when they first start. The final product is the most rewarding. It makes all of the rehearsals worth it.”
The Aloha Center Ballroom was packed; a couple dozen audience members stood in the back because the chairs were filled.
Ta’ala, a psychology and peacebuilding major from California, said she attended the recital to support the Polynesian Music Ensemble as well as her boyfriend who was the emcee of the night. She said, “I didn’t know any of the dancers but it’s nice to see people interested in others’ cultures.”
Ta’ala said her favorite part of the night was when the Folk Dance of the Pacific class “performed the Samoan slap dance and the Taualuga because they were well prepared.”
In addition to Samoa, the Folk Dance class also performed dances from Aotearoa, Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, and Tahiti. Their costumes changed in accordance with the island they were representing through dance.
The cheers from the audience were loudest after the men of the EXS 185 class performed the haka. As they performed, the plants placed on the stage were vigorously shaking in reaction to their stomps. The stage itself rocked back and forth and appeared as though it would crumble at any moment.
Lillee Baloxham, a sophomore in HTM and business management from Idaho, said the overall recital was entertaining. She said, “It’s great because they’re students and newbies. They did a good job and you know it’s solely for entertainment purposes.” Baloxham said she came to support a friend that was in the hula class.
The two sections of the class performed multiple numbers including a “sophisticated hula” style, a Hawaiian lullaby song originating from the 1950s, and an energetic number with bamboo sticks and ipu drums.
Kekauoha said the most challenging part of his experience in the EXS 183 class was learning the chants. He said, “It’s different languages and different rules. I feel that dancing is easy, but knowing what you’re dancing to and knowing the words and their meaning is harder.”
He said he was appreciative that Aunty Bobby was understanding towards him and his classmates. “She understands that this isn’t our major. She is very kind and always willing to work with you. She never raises her voice and you can really tell she has a passion for this.”
Aunty Bobby said it was a blessing to get this job and enjoys “getting to know [my students]. They make all of the sleepless nights worth it.”
The women in the hula class wore solid black blouses with vibrant yellow and red-based hula skirts, matching red plumeria necklaces, and white plumerias in their hair. The men were decked out in white button-ups, black slacks, leaf hakus, and green, black, yellow, and blue kiheis that matched the women’s skirts. Aunty Bobby wore a similar kihei. The night ended with a finale featuring all three classes and a mixture of all Polynesian cultures and dance moves. Aunty Bobby joined in and danced along with her students.
The five graduating seniors from all three classes were highlighted and given the opportunity to share some departing words.