By Alyssa Helsel
The word Hawaii, to most people, brings to mind a luscious island across the Pacific Ocean and the birthplace of Polynesian culture including the widely known Hula and Tahitian-styled dances. These forms of dances were born within the time-period of ancient Hawaii when the written language did not yet exist as a way to convey the literal meaning of a tale connecting their moves to the land, their culture, and keeping their mythology alive. Although the Hawaiian culture seems to lie elsewhere, across the sea, Senior Shana Vicente brings the life of Polynesian dancing to California.
Vicente began her dance journey by first joining the He Ohana Nani three years ago and ever since, she has enveloped herself within any Polynesian dance opportunity such as No Ka Nani, which she has been a part of for two years, and Tauivi Polynesian in which she has been a participant for three months. Originally, she claimed that joining was a little bit outside of her comfort zone but after much practice and hard work, Vicente grew more confident in herself and her artwork of dance. Vicente explained, “I have found a part of myself from just being in Tahitian. It helped me grow out of my comfort zone and explored the rest of what I could do being a Polynesian dancer. . .I would have never thought I would be one of the captains for He Ohana Nani and being placed as first at KAM [Ke Aloha Moku].” Before the competition, Vicente was found practicing after school every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and conditioned for two hours each day with her team and her director, Tauivi. But on April 20, 2019, the competition Ke Aloha Moku arrived at Great Oaks High School; here, dancers from an array of different schools competed by exhibiting dance movements they have learned over the course of the school year. It was on this day that Vicente took first place under the soloist category of KAM. As a soloist, Vicente had to freestyle her performance, not knowing what song she would be performing to or having a dance completely planned out. This way, judges would rate the performance on the unique moves and stage performance alone. Vicente drew inspiration from other Tahitian teams coming from different countries such as Japan, Mexico, and Thailand, she would also occasionally turn hip-hop originated moves and turn them into Polynesian dance moves. Vicente also watched competitions and dances on YouTube such as HEIVA i PARIS and Moena Maiotui to help her progress her dance moves. Few students can say that they had the honor of receiving first place under soloist for Polynesian dance but through Vicente’s persistence, she was rewarded with such a title.
Polynesian dance has been such an influence on her life that upon graduation, Vicente plans to continue her Polynesian dance career by staying in Tauivi Polynesian, which is a job she is passionate for. After the competition, she stated, “After winning my solo competition, I felt like not only I made my parents proud, but I also felt like I have accomplished something in life. . .I also felt like I have found a part of myself from just being in Tahitian.” Vicente’s pursuit in Polynesian dance has helped to shape her self-confidence, which led the way to stepping up and fulfilling a leadership position where she was co-captain for both Ohana Nani and No Ka Nani. She highly encourages other students to join in the school’s Ohana Nani dance team. Vicente remarked, “For the people that want to join Tahitian, I say go for it, don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and also don't be embarrassed if you can’t do a move because that was me in the beginning but I practiced and got better.” She explained that the word Ohana means ‘family’ in Pidgin and that, as the name suggests, she is very close to her teammates and would even consider some family. Vicente expresses her artwork in the movement of dance which has overall shaped her into being a more confident person and will help her through different strides of life.
Vicente holds her title of first place winner with much pride and has much support from her family. She still continues to help her teammates in their own aspirations of dance as well. Through the experiences she has gained through her years spent in Polynesian dance, she looks optimistically to the future and is excited to continue her dance career.