Learning to live aloha

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Polynesian dance troupe celebrates 20th anniversary

(Contributed photo)

SANTA CRUZ — When Lorraine Kaleiokalaua’e Kinnamon was 10, her family moved from Toronto, Canada to Kailua Kaneohe, Oa’ahu. Having studied ballet from age 4, she soon began searching for a place to dance — and fell in love with hula.

“Being introduced to hula changed my life,” Kinnamon said. “It’s truly a spiritual dance form; so connected to earth and culture. There’s nothing else like it.”

Kinnamon ended up studying at UC Santa Cruz and then moving permanently to the city. She began instructing hula and Tahitian dance at the Capitola Recreation Department in 1998, eventually officially forming the Te Hau Nui School of Hula and Tahitian Dance.

On Saturday, Te Hau Nui will commemorate its 20th anniversary with a special fundraiser performance. The show, which will be held at Santa Cruz’s Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., brings together a number of musicians and more than 40 dancers ages 5 to 60 for an evening to celebrate Polynesian culture.

“This is a way of giving thanks to Santa Cruz,” Kinnamon said. “I’m so honored to have been able to bring this beautiful art form to such a supportive community.”

An impressive lineup of special guests are scheduled to be involved in Saturday’s show. Taj Mahal, blues legend and close acquaintance of Kinnamon’s who recently won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album, will be in attendance.

Other guests include Ron Kuala’au, former member of the popular Hawaiian band Hapa (and high school classmate of Kinnamon). Also performing will be the Ho’omana Hawaiian Band, vocalist and musician Faith Ako and local steel guitar legend Patti Maxine.

The celebration is titled “Hula: New, Blue and Beyond!”, which has special meaning to Kinnamon. “Blue,” she says, is how she remembers life growing up in Oa’ahu, and also refers to one of Taj Mahal’s new songs. “Beyond” alludes to the variety of dances present in Polynesian culture.

“There will be plenty of surprises,” Kinnamon said. “It’s not just about the hula — there are so many unique ways to introduce people to this art form.”

The event will also include a silent auction and raffle. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets vary between $25 and $55 and are available to purchase in-person at Streetlight Records, 939 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz and online at pulseproductions.net.

“I think it’s going to be a very special evening,” Kinnamon said, “a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

For information on the performance and on the Te Hau Nui School of Hula and Tahitian Dance, visit tehaunuidance.com.

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