Welcome back event shares Hawaiian culture

Chase Spear, Assistant News Editor

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CSUSM Campus Recreation and the Cross-Cultural Center hosted Welcome Back Luau, a Tukwut Life event where students gathered to enjoy a night of dancing and Hawaiian cuisine.

Sonya Starr-McLin, pro staff of operations with Campus Recreation, coordinated the event, which took place on Friday, Jan. 25. The luau began with a dance performance by the CSUSM Tahitian Club in the USU Amphitheater. Afterwards, professional fire dancer Harvey Mendiola performed a Hawaiian fire dance.

According to Mendiola, the fire dance is a demonstration of “bravery, skill and pain.”

Campus Recreation Programmer Adriane Obedencil stated that the fire dance performance was “really different from other shows we have [on campus].”

In the USU Ballroom, students sampled rice, pork and macaroni salad while treated to a full hour luau show hosted by hula dancer Kuma Liana Kahne. Kahne is an event coordinator of a Southern California hula dance group known as Kumu’s Pretty Dancers.

In between performances, Kahne invited students on-stage to practice hula dancing in the traditional Hawaiian style.

In addition, Kahne discussed various aspects of Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan and Polynesian culture. “We wanted to make [the luau] fun and educational,” said Student Assistant of Campus Recreation, Kimmie Schafer.

Kahne along with the other dancers first invited female students from the audience onstage. The students were taught the basic steps in how to hula dance. Afterwards, male students were invited onstage and were taught the same steps.     In addition to hula dancing, Mendiola taught the students how to perform a ceremonial dance known as the haka. The haka is a traditional dance originating from New Zealand and is accompanied by a chant spoken in the Samoan language. Members in the audience joined in speaking the chant as Mendiola performed the haka onstage. Like Kahne, Mendiola shared his culture with the students. He wanted to “give something that [the students] never had.” Mendiola enjoyed having the students be “a part of culture.” According to Mendiola, the performances he gave at the luau were an expression of mana, a Hawaiian term for spiritual energy or strength.

“It’s a sense of aloha,” Kahne said. “We are one family, one community, one world.”

For more information on dates and events hosted by Campus Recreation, visit their website at www.csusm.edu/rec.

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