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Hawaiian transplant shares island dances

By: Kathy Maynard, Loomis News Correspondent
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A Hawaiian transplant has brought the Aloha spirit to Loomis with hula dance classes and performances. Pam Akina, director of the Hula Pono Polynesian Dance School and performance group based at Green Tree Studio in Loomis, has turned decades of experience as a professional and competitive hula dancer into a career teaching others about Hawaiian history, culture, language and crafts through hula dancing. Akina was born in Hawaii and started dancing the hula when she was seven years old. She gave it up when she moved to California with her parents and older brother a few years later, then started taking hula seriously as a teen, and danced professionally until the demands of her own growing family forced her to put it aside again. She moved to Loomis in 2000 from the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Joe Kleinsmith, and their kids Doug Kleinsmith, 20, a 2010 Del Oro grad, and Ally Kleinsmith, 18, who just graduated. ?I started teaching in 2008 through Placer School for Adults as a way to keep connected to hula, even though I wasn?t still performing and found that I really, really liked it. I hadn?t expected to like it because I thought of myself as a dancer, not a teacher, but one thing led to another. Now, I am doing my own classes, and have about 60 students and a group of performers,? she said. Akina?s students range in age from four to 84 and vary in experience from beginner to advanced. She also teaches classes at Sun City, in Lincoln Hills; at Placer School for Adults in Auburn and for Sierra College Community Education in Roseville. Hula Pono dancers kick off their performance season at the Senior L.I.F.E. Center of Loomis in May, perform at several community events, including the Loomis Relay for Life and the Eggplant Festival, and are also available for private luaus, parties and events. ?We perform because that is part of hula, but our focus is to learn. The hula is a way to learn about Hawaiian culture and history and language, so we study all of that in class. We research every dance we do, understand what the history is, learn the translations and understand the concept called the Kaona, the deeper meaning behind the words, to be able to express and interpret it,? Akina said. It was the deeper meaning of the hula that led Sierra College sophomore Sarah Schell, 19, of Auburn to sign up for classes two years ago while working on her senior project about Hawaiian myths and legends at Placer High School. ?I?m originally from Hawaii and moved to California when I was six. I realized that not many people knew that hula dancing is a way of story telling and perpetuating the Hawaiian culture so I began Hula dancing with Pam. I thought I would stop after I finished my project but it?s still a lot of fun to go to classes once a week and do performances and help the communities,? she said. Molly Mullikin, 73, was excited to find Akina?s hula classes when she moved to Sun City in Lincoln Hills last year. Born and raised in Honolulu, Mullikin started hula dancing when she was five years old and danced with several well known hula groups in both Walnut Creek, Calif. and Hawaii before retiring. ?I hula for my love of Hawaii, it?s good exercise, remembering the moves is good to get the brain going because it?s complicated, and there?s a sisterhood of hula sisters that is a very nice, warm, friendly, supportive group,? she said. For more information, call 521-0474 or email hula.polo@sbcglobal.net.