While most BYU-Hawaii students were enjoying sunshine in Hawaii, a group of students from the Polynesian Cultural Center were performing the hula in the snow in the 64th Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan.
J. Alan Walker was the leader of the promotional entertainment team for PCC. He said, “The performers actually performed their first show in bare feet [on ice]. That was more of a painful memory than a fun one…. The performers further improvised by wearing normal socks covered with a plastic bag and thermal socks on top of that. It kept their feet warm.”
Walker said dancing in front of the snow sculptures of Maruko, a Japanese well-known animation character, was a remarkable experience. “We performed three times a day, on a snow stage outdoors, in the underground walkway stage, and also for the Hokkaido Prefectural government leaders at the Hokkaido Prefectural Government Office in Sapporo.”
Walker said local television and newspapers covered the on-ice-hula performances. “The thought of hula dancers in the snow was very unique and attractive to the media and general consumers,” he said. The PCC promotional entertainment team was sponsored by JTB Hawaii, Hawaii Tourism Japan, and Hawaiian Airlines to visit Japan to promote Hawaii and the new direct Hawaiian Airlines flight between Sapporo and Honolulu.
Team members included six student dancers, PCC Theater Directors Ellen Gay and Dela Rosa, and the Musician & Sound recording/arranging Specialist Milton Kaka. Walker said PCC has other performances planned for the future including the three-time World Fire Knife Champion David Galeai of Laie. The PCC has also been invited to perform at the 2013 Odaiba Hawaii Festival in Tokyo, Japan, with a 15-man promotional team in late April and early May.
Rani Anandan, an anthropology senior from American Samoa as well as a performer in Ali’i Luau at PCC, said dancing in bare feet is not easy, but “as a dancer, I wouldn’t mind or worry about the natural condition. Dancing with the spirit is more important. It is a cultural pride to dance regardless the natural condition.”
Miki Mateo, a senior in ICS from Japan, said, “Although the weather was cool, I could see a warm spirit surrounding the dancers.” When she saw the performers’ photos on Facebook, she said she was impressed by their attitude. “The dancers were smiling the whole time and it was awesome. I know Hokkaido is a very cold place.”
The Sapporo Snow Festival is one of Japan’s largest winter events and attracts about 2 million people to see the snow statues and ice sculptures every winter, says the festival’s website.