Many different colors were swayed and spun on Thursday, June 21, as the BYUH Polynesian music and dance class came together to perform close to a dozen a mixture of songs, dances, and solos in the ballroom for their final assignment and semester ending performance. Students shared how these classes gave them a chance to embrace island culture, appreciate diversity, and feel the Spirit of Aloha.
“I think it is important [to embrace other cultures] because… it’s a very diverse island,” said Emylynn Walter Cheng, a senior from Micronesia studying elementary education. “BYUH is also a very diverse university and it is important for everyone to understand and learn about different cultures.”
After arriving here, Cindy Lin, a sophomore from Taiwan studying social work, shared how she fell in love with hula and had to learn how to dance it. She said through her experiences, she has learned, “If someone really loves sharing joy and experiencing the spirit, not just the Hawaiian spirit, but the Spirit of God, then they can join this big family because you really feel like you’re a part of [our] ohana.
“It’s beautiful and it’s a different culture I’ve never experienced. I really like the whole class with the projects we do and the dances we’ve learned.”
The night was filled with many dances from various islands that share a part of the Polynesian culture, such as the different Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Fiji, the Maori, and more. The performances and solos were accompanied by the Polynesian music class, whom formed a band of students.
Strumming one of the performing ukuleles was sophomore Tonga Tonga from Tonga, studying information technology. He said at the end of the night finishing all the performances was “a relief, because it is part of our final, and at the same time it feels good because this is the first time for me to perform in front of people or perform for people to dance. It makes me happy.
“My favorite part of the night was our teacher, Edward Maiava, playing the ukulele. He was playing a special number, I really enjoyed that and the final songs. I feel like music is life. For me, without music is kind of boring. The beat is the heart of the dance.”
One of the individuals Lin wanted to acknowledge was their dance teacher, Auntie Bobby, [Ramona Beltran]. “She has taught this class for 13 years in this school. She is really nice, patient, and she explains all the motions and what they mean. She helps us feel the aloha spirit during class.”
Although it was considered a lot to learn in such a short amount of time, Cheng said she’s honored to learn so much and it was a blessing for her.
She continued, “For me, it’s cool you don’t have to go somewhere else to learn about someone’s culture. You can stay here and learn the culture through dance and music in your class.”
Lin shared Cheng’s thoughts and added her own. She commented, “I think we can support and respect more of the Polynesian culture because we are here and we are very lucky to experience [this]. We’ve got friends and classes to help us learn more about things we wouldn’t have the chance to learn in our own countries.”