By Erica Benjamin for the SNAP
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 —
Visitors to Locust’s Summer Concert Series and Cruise-In were taken on a trip through Polynesia with the help of a local family who enthusiastically shared a piece of their culture with those attending the event. They were greeted with a warm Aloha (Hawaiian) and Talofa (Samoan).
Chief Rick and Selina Olomua, along with their nieces, performed dance routines from the islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa for the audience at the July 19 event.
Rick Olomua was born in American Samoa, where he learned the Polynesian art of fire knife dancing before moving to Hawaii as a teenager. In Oahu, he met his wife, Selina, who was also a dancer. The couple began performing together, and in 1998 they met Johnny Kai, a professional entertainer, musician and president of the non-profit Hawaiian Music Foundation.
“Johnny Kai is our mentor. He’s a big performer on the islands,” Selina Olomua said.
The Olomuas’ collaboration with Kai continued after Rick’s job in law enforcement brought them to the mainland of the United States, first to New York then North Carolina, where they settled in Stanfield.
“We danced together for a few shows up and down the coast,” Selina said.
At the suggestion of family and friends, the Olomuas turned their love of dancing into a family-owned business, the South Sea Dancers.
Each show lasts between 45-60 minutes and features multiple dance routines, which incorporate the gourd, bamboo sticks and poi balls, and the Somoan Fire Dance as the grand finale. The costumes and head dresses were handmade by Olomua and the grass skirts used in the show were crafted in Hawaii.
“We take our clients on a tour of Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa. We teach everyone the different greetings from each island,” Selina said.
“We travel all over North Carolina and we just got back from Evansville, Indiana.”
The routines for the show were choreographed by Kai, who also provided the music.
“The music we used is live music which he recorded for us,” Selina said.
Sharing their culture with others has also brought the family closer together.
“We use it as family time,” Selina said, adding that their 12-year-old son, Siamani, is also learning the art.
The extended family is the core of Samoan society.
Niece Krystal Pavone and her twin sister, Sharday Cline, moved from California to Midland and also perform with the South Sea Dancers. Pavone and her sister have been dancing since they were children.
“I really enjoy the art. It’s a happy dance,” Pavone said, adding that she enjoys seeing everyone, young and old alike, coming together for their performance.
“It’s bringing a culture that most people really don’t get to see; bringing it here in a different place where everyone can come together, eat and have a good time.”
Erica Benjamin is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.