Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
Students gathered behind Miller Hall on a cold and windy night to enjoy a “Journey Through Polynesia” Wednesday evening.
The event, organized by the Campus Activities Board and the Associated Students of the University of La Verne, brought the campus a taste of the central and southern Pacific Ocean islands through typical food and performances.
“I wanted to have an event that was different from the typical Hawaiian luau, I wanted to celebrate all the Polynesian culture,” said CAB multicultural chairwoman Autumn Simon, who organized the event. “It’s close to finals week so I kind of wanted everyone to relax, take the luau vibes with them.”
Over 40 people helped themselves to a buffet where rice, barbecue chicken, mac and cheese, salad, and fruits such as papaya, kiwi and watermelon were served. Refreshing beverages were also available for guests.
All the food was prepared by Tausala Polynesia, a group that brings the Polynesian culture and tradition to events through both cuisine and performances. After all attendees were served, they initiated their show, which portrayed the islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
The performance included drums played by Leaso Tufuga, a Samoa native and one of the owners of Tausala Polynesia.
Three female dancers moved in perfect synchrony wearing leaf-shaped skirts and leaf-made crowns and bracelets.
A dialect-based song echoed on the Quad while Tufuga performed the warrior dance. Later, the women returned with flowers on their heads and rattles in their hands for a lively performance.
Maori poi balls and the Tahitian fast hip shaking also made up the spectacle, as well as the number with a big, yellow and red head costume typical from Samoa – the heart of Polynesia and known as the “land of the happy people.”
“We take our audience to the islands of the South Pacific, we take them on a journey,” said Unica Luna, also owner of Tausala Polynesia and one of the main dancers. “When you grow up in the Polynesian culture, food, music and dancing is part of the culture. You’re raised with it,” Luna said.
“Each one (dance) has its own special uniqueness to it,” she said. “That’s what we try to do, we try to portray the best from each island.”
“A lot of it too is our inner person performing. So it’s not just the costumes, it’s not just the physical thing that you see, it’s also our inner person that’s coming out. That’s what we want everyone watching us to feel: as if they were in the islands,” Luna added.
Toward the end of the show, Luna invited Simon, CAB spirit chair Reanna Hilario and three other students to join on stage and learn Polynesian dance moves. She guided them step by step, using the codenames coconut and pineapple for hip moves to the left and right, respectively.
“It was really fun. The food was really good and I got to shake my hips,” said junior business administration major An-tony Young, one of the students called on stage. “It was a cool little experience, it was funny.”
“I hope they (students) get appreciation for this kind of performance because this is its own art form,” said junior broadcast radio major Hilario.
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.