By Kiana-Lei-Yap | Staff Writer

The lu’au featured performances like spoken word pieces and hula sets. (Courtesy of @stmarysca)

The lu’au featured performances like spoken word pieces and hula sets. (Courtesy of @stmarysca)

For the 11th annual Polynesian Cultural Night, popularly known as the Lu’au, students from all racial backgrounds participated in sharing and celebrating life on the islands through the theme Uncharted Waters. This sold-out event included the best that all the cultural nights have to offer their guests: performances and delicious Hawaiian food. Transformed into the perfect setting for a Lu’au, guests flooded the Soda Center brimming with excitement for the night ahead.

The event started by introducing the members of the executive team and a call-and-response pre-dinner blessing in Hawaiian.

Guests were then treated to a spread including a springy kale salad with mango, chicken long rice, mahi mahi, and roast pig with crispy skin. For dessert, there was a coconut-pineapple cake, petite fruit tarts, a spread of summer fruits, and ice cream.

Prior to each performance, a short video summary by the set director was played where they explained how the overall theme influenced their set or performance.

The night included several Tahitian and hula sets, a powerfully deep, spoken word piece, two vocal performances, and two hilarious videos about difficult-to-pronounce Chamorro and Hawaiian pidgin-style phrases.

The performance that closed out the evening was a beautifully choreographed, traditional Tahitian Otea dance by Alakoka Kailahi who brought in live drummers from her studio to play alongside the dancers. Guests were wowed and fully entertained by both the dancers and the drummers, who stayed to play during the cast’s ending bows.

Jacob San Nicolas, the Event Planner for the Lu’au, shared some advice for those who want to participate in the Lu’au in the future by saying, “Though the dances may seem intimidating or connecting with the culture is difficult, [they are] beyond enjoyable to be in. We want you to experience, even if it’s just a glimpse, of what our culture is and how you can be a part of it.”

Co-Chair and veteran executive team member for the Lu’au, Gloria Palma, commented on how celebrating and sharing her Polynesian culture through Lu’au has shaped her time at Saint Mary’s. “My time here at [Saint Mary’s] has been one of self-reflection and discovery, identity-wise.” Palma continued, “The place where I felt most comfortable, most confident, was during the Lu’au process. To be able to share that piece of my identity, my home, with everyone on campus is something that I’ll cherish forever… I always made it a commitment to remember who I am, and where I come from. And that’s very special to me.”

The Lu’au is known for its relaxed island vibe that the organizers created for their guests and audience, but it also showcases the “power behind the small islands,” according to San Nicolas.

With each year, this event allows participants, special guests, and audience members to be given new experiences, where they may immerse themselves in the celebration of the diversity of Pacific Island cultures.

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