Na Hoku Mai Kanolani highlights Hawaiian and Tahitian dance

Anissa Ypon, Staff Writer

The Hawaiian and Tahitian cultures are best known for their expressive dancing. Oftentimes people misinterpret the differences between both cultures by merging them into one concept: Hula dancing.

Susan, George and son Tallon Pedregosa began their own halau (group), Na Hoku Mai Kanoelani in 2000, to represent both cultures. On April 25, the halau held its 12th annual Spring Ho’ike at San Joaquin Delta College in the Atherton Auditorium.

“Na Hoku Mai Kanoelani is a family that can never be broken,” choreographer Tallon Pedregosa said. “The support makes us an unstoppable force of love for this culture.”

Several classes are taught for different age groups and different cultural dances.  The Pedregosa family choreographs the dances and performs live music during performances.  From rigorous drumming to singing along with a beautiful ‘ahuroa and ‘aparima (Tahitian dances influenced by hula), the Pedregosa family aims for the full effect of the mixed cultures.

“You can’t teach true Aloha,” Tahitian and Hula dancer Angelica Ora said. “I may not have the perfect look but I have the heart.”

While many don’t carry the bloodline, several former students and current BCHS students are a part of this culture-based halau.  Most of these students have been dancing for over a decade.

“My dad is basically a local in Hawai’i so I grew up with the culture,” junior Jacqueline Gaspar said. “It’s [dancing] become my passion and I hope to pass it on to my future children.”

Those who dance for the halau spend hours attending practices to get their routines down.  While hula dancing is perceived to be “easy.” It is much more than swaying hips, grass skirts and coconut bras.

The history of Hawai’i is represented through ancient hula dancing which can be separated into various categories.  However, all are rooted together through the origins of hula dancing.

Hula is oftentimes performed to music (a mele) or chanting (kahiko) by both men and women.  In general, hula dancing is represented with grace to share the stories of Hawaiian history and give off a sense of hospitality toward the audience or visitors of the islands.

A lot of people are so into this culture because it’s so welcoming,” BCHS alumna Jessica de la Cruz said. “Dance is another way to express our hospitality.”

On the other hand, Tahitian dancing goes back to the native Polynesian islands before European contact.  The dance was forbidden in the islands by missionaries who presumed it to be erotic.

While Kahiko Hula can be danced slow or fast, it never reaches the speed of the ote’a (Tahitian dance).  The ote’a is best known for the quick movement of the hips and is danced by both men and women.

“Tahitian dancing is just as rigorous as a sport,” junior Aaron Rugnao said. “It’s a huge work out, and just like a sport, you have to practice in order to get better.”

Most students look forward to visiting Hawai’i for vacation but don’t take the time to differentiate the cultures that are represented in the islands.  What they don’t know is that there’s more to it than what the Polynesian club presents at the international rallies.  Na Hoku Mai Kanoelani shares the dances, music and history of the Tahitian and Hawaiian cultures with hopes to spread true Aloha.