Women young and old are invited to learn and refine Polynesian dance, at Tausala Pasefika, a dance school by a Samoan woman who has been dancing since she was seven.
Kehaolani Petina Manoa-Slade, Founder and sole Dance Instructor of Tausala Pasefika has been teaching for five years and has never looked back.
“My favourite part about teaching is watching my dancers improve and grow in ways they never thought possible when they first joined Tausala Pasefika,” she said.
Tomorrow she is hosting a public, free class for all ages and stages of dance, at 1pm Saturday at the Samoa Sports Lodge in Lotopa.
Ms. Manoa-Slade said she wants to help women experience a love of dance like hers.
“If I could do nothing but dance all day, I would,” she said. “Being immersed in the different cultures through dance is something that stays with my dancers and that’s what I try to achieve.
A mother to two daughters of 6 and 1 years old, Ms. Manoa-Slade said her girls are already avid dancers and may one day continue her company.
Dancing in traditional styles is about more than just the movements. Protecting and honouring traditional dances is important too, Ms. Manoa-Slade said.
“So many of our youth in Samoa are turning to hip hop and it leaves our Pacific dances in the dust,” she said.
“I want to promote our Polynesian culture in a way that attracts our youth in hopes that it will lure them in and make them want to learn more about our culture.”
So far, she has been happy to see not only young women come to her classes, but their mothers or grandmothers as well.
“Who am I to say no and deprive these women of a chance to learn as well?”
Students just need comfortable clothes and lots of water, Ms. Manoa-Slade said.
Currently, classes are divided into four age groups, and run on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The schedule is available on the Tausala Pasefika Facebook page.
As well as maintaining tradition, Ms. Manoa-Slade knows her dance classes are part of some women’s fitness regime, and finds it therapeutic herself.
“Some people, like myself, are not sports oriented so dance is the closest thing I have to a good workout.
“I have had many women join the group just to work out. And trust me; you’ll get a good sweat from our classes” she said.
The dancer’s own journey towards teaching began as a seven year old in American Samoa. Her mother enrolled her in a group in a bid to get a shy girl’s confidence up.
Years later, Ms. Manoa-Slade said her early instructors still play a part in how she dances and teaches.
“I take away something from each of my instructors and those are implemented in the classes I teach now,” she said.
True to her Polynesian heritage, the dance students become a family with a close bond, Ms. Manoa-Slade said.
“We have a special bond with our students where one minute we’ll be laughing but when it comes time to be serious about practices we all know how to switch gears.
“I try to get to know my students and their families and I consider the dancers of Tausala Pasefika family.”
Connection is important when it comes to delivering beautiful dances, she continued, and dancers need to understand each other fully.