Arts & Culture

Justin Timberlake couldn’t pull off what Tacoma’s Asian community did on Saturday

Kanoelani Galira leads her dance group Hula o Keala akua Naninoa Mara Oakamai on stage at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s 21st Annual New Year Celebration in the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, February 23, 2019.
Kanoelani Galira leads her dance group Hula o Keala akua Naninoa Mara Oakamai on stage at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s 21st Annual New Year Celebration in the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, February 23, 2019. phaley@thenewstribune.com

Lua Pritchard accomplished on Saturday what Justin Timberlake couldn’t.

Pritchard, the executive director of Tacoma’s Asia Pacific Cultural Center, rescheduled her group’s annual New Year Celebration after the Tacoma Dome was snowed in the weekend of Feb. 8-10.

Timberlake, meanwhile, wasn’t able to reschedule.

It wasn’t easy for Pritchard.

“It was really hard and stressful,” she recalled Saturday as she watched Hawaiian entertainers perform on the event’s stage. Hawaii was the featured culture at the annual event.

The massive snowstorm forced Timberlake, Michele Obama and Bob Seger to all cancel their appearances at the Dome. Pritchard and her crew had to cancel just hours before their event and after they had set up.

On Saturday, as it was in years past, the hall was packed with thousands of people enjoying entertainment and food booths.

Everyone originally scheduled was able to make the new date except two vendors and one of the entertainment groups, Pritchard said.

Seattle-based Halau Hula ‘O Lono brought 30 hula dancers, musicians and princesses to entertain the crowd.

The group’s leader, Manuiki Moke Ho’opi’l Lono, moved to Washington from Hawaii in 1996. The vast majority of her group are also Hawaiian.

“They are learning the ancient dances, language, music, the history,” Lono said. “These are young people. There was nobody to teach them protocol.”

Lono wasn’t the only hula instructor present.

Hawaiian native Kumu Hula Kanoelani Galiza was wearing several items that probably wouldn’t be hanging around the neck of a tourist in Honolulu.

One was a lei made of maile leaves.

“It’s used for all the ceremonies and festivals,” she said. “This is a blessing.”

She was also wearing a necklace of shells from Niihau, Hawaii’s forbidden island.

“Only certain people can have this,” she said.

Along with Hula, Galiza teaches Maori and Tahitian dancing at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center.

The 64-year-old has lived in the area for 24 years. She moved from Hawaii with her husband.

“It was really hard for me in the beginning,” she recalled of those early days. “I would cry practically every night. I missed the island, the beach, the land, everything.”

Soon she was immersed in teaching her culture to Hawaiians living in Washington.

“It was important for the young ones to learn,” Galiza said. “A lot of them are not born in Hawaii. They need to be taught so they can carry it on to future generations.”

In turn, she said, Hawaiian, Polynesian and Asian cultures have added to the cultural landscape of Washington.

“As the community grows with every ethnicity and culture, Washington grows,” she said. “We are giving back to Washington.”

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.

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