A long way from Hawaii, this school for hula and Tahitian dance is thriving

In the Windy City of Chicago, a married couple perpetuate the dances of Polynesia, and neither of them are of Hawaiian or Polynesian descent.
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 5:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the Windy City, a Chicago couple perpetuate the dances of Polynesia, and neither of them are of Hawaiian or Polynesian descent.

They own the Hokulea Academy of Polynesian Arts.

“It rings true to me that I had a bigger responsibility to share with my students and share here in Chicago more about the culture, not just the dance, or not just the entertainment side of it,” co-owner David Acevedo said.

He’s of Puerto Rican and German heritage. His wife, Ale Gabino, was born in Mexico.

Long before they met, they individually became enamored with hula and Tahitian dance.

“I actually fell in love with it and I stuck with it and I stopped any other style of dancing,” Gabino said.

They met in 2003 at a Tahitian dance competition in Hilo.

In 2010, a year after they married, they opened their studio.

Their troupe performs to audiences throughout the Chicago area.

“We get a lot of compliments not only on how we all perform but also the fact that they come out of the show learning something,” Gabino said.

Accuracy is important to them. They’ve visited Hawaii and Tahiti many times to study with respected kumu hula and Polynesian dance teachers, and they do their homework.

“Fortunately, many musicians that create mele or kumu hula themselves are very open to sharing with us because they know it’s safe with us and that we’ll pass it and perpetuate it in a pono manner,” Acevedo said.

They conduct classes for all ages. Two of their dancers are from Hawaii. Others in their school were drawn it after seeing the academy perform.

“Pacific Islanders, when they see someone wearing a flower in their hair, or they see the tatau or they see the ink it’s like it intrigues them right away. It’s like family, home, and they feel a sense of connection,” Acevedo said.

“Even if I’m not Hawaiian or Tahitian, I make it my own story. I really love that,” Gabino said.

The Hokulea Academy of Polynesian Arts is celebrating its 12-year anniversary,

Gabino and Acevedo found their calling, sharing the dances of Polynesia far from the Pacific islands.