Local women find camaraderie and the aloha spirit in hula dance lessons for ages 55 and older

by: JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Lisa Chang accompanies her hula students on percussion during a lesson for her 55-and-older  class in Aloha. Chang's classes include not just hula but Hawaiian culture and language, songs and dances for people of all ages.

When Barbara Archer moved back to her native Oregon two years ago after living five years in Hawaii — in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island — she felt something was missing from her life. That something was Hawaiian culture.

“You can take the girl out of Hawaii, but you can’t take Hawaii out of the girl,” the 68-year-old Tualatin resident says with a laugh.

Archer, who teaches health-care administration online, had taken hula lessons in Hawaii, and last March she started taking them again. This time her teacher is Lisa Chang, owner of Hula Halau ‘Ohana Holo’oko’a, an Aloha-based school that teaches hula dance along with Hawaiian language, stories and songs for all ages. Archer takes the class for students 55 and older.

“This is the highlight of my week,” she says. “First of all, it’s the stories; I love the Hawaiian culture, and I also love the music. I spent time with Hawaiian families and heard the stories. Lisa does a great job incorporating the language, the stories, the whole bit.”

Anne Madden of Cedar Mill agrees. “It’s not just the dance, it’s the Hawaiian culture — we’re expected to study,” says Madden, 67, who has visited Hawaii seven times. “We take this very seriously. Lisa takes this very seriously. So as we dance, she’s quizzing us.”

Madden retired from a long career in Washington County’s communications department and started taking hula from Chang last May. She loves how close she and her fellow students have become. “Once you’re in this group, you’re a hula sister,” she says with a smile. “You’re beloved, you’re cared for.”

by: PHOTOS: JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Lani Harris of Beaverton (right foreground), a student in Lisa Chang's hula dance class for ages 55 and older, took her first hula class in the summer of 2009 and started 'full bore' in the spring of 2010, she says. The class meets Thursday mornings at Light of Life Lutheran Church in Aloha.

Families integral to culture

Chang opened Hula Halau ‘Ohana Holo’oko’a (translation: school of hula where everyone is family) in 1998. She also is executive director of the Ka’ana ‘Ike A Ka ‘Ohana (KIAKO) Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to cultivating Hawaiian arts, language and heritage in the Pacific Northwest. KIAKO is an acronym for “Ka’ana ‘Ike A Ka ‘Ohana,” Hawaiian for “sharing knowledge through families.”

Chang, 51, isn’t from Hawaii — she grew up in Hillsboro and started learning hula while attending Oregon State University. “My best friend in college was from Hawaii,” she says.

After she graduated from OSU, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and worked as a pharmacist for 20 years. “I did both pharmacy and hula about seven years, then went full-time with hula,” she says.

She has loved Hawaii’s “aloha spirit” ever since her first trip there in junior high; since then she goes to the islands once or twice a year, mostly on business for her school.

Chang started the 55-plus class last April. It differs from her other hula classes in that it takes place during the day, when many older adults are more comfortable driving, and the pace of this class is slower, she says.

There are two styles of hula: the ancient form, which is more rigorous, and the modern, less rigorous form, which her 55-plus students do. In hula competitions, women 35 and older are known as “gracious ladies,” Chang JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Barbara Archer wears a flower hair ornament as part of her class uniform, which also includes a purple T-shirt and purple skirt. Purple is the color of Hawaii, says instructor Lisa Chang.

Jeanie Holzworth, 68, of Hillsdale has taken hula from Chang for about a year. She’s originally from Hawaii, “the Kailua side of Oahu,” she says. “I was into ballet, but hula was all around me.”

Dolores Ranum of Newberg is another Hawaii native who took up hula later in life. Born at Scofield Barracks in Honolulu, Ranum, who turns 77 in February started hula about eight years ago. “I have three granddaughters who take hula, too,” she says.

The youngest student in the 55-plus class is Renee Stewart, a twentysomething who is allowed in because her schedule doesn’t allow her to take a night class. She’s getting married in June in Hawaii, “and I want to do the hula at my wedding,” she says.

The newest student: Margorie Sellers of Beaverton, who received four class sessions as a Christmas gift from her daughter and took her first hula lesson Jan. 3. “It’s quite a workout,” she says with a laugh during a short break, indicating her thighs, hips and rear.

But Sellers feels the aloha spirit, too: “I’ll be back next week.”

Learn the hula

Who: Hula Halau ‘Ohana Holo’oko’a

What: Hula dance lessons for 55 and older.

When: Thursdays from 10 to 11 a.m.

Where: Light Of Life Lutheran Church, 7390 S.W. Grabhorn Road, Aloha.

Cost: $50 registration and $40 per month for weekly lessons. There is also a uniform requirement (students wear purple T-shirts and skirts).

Info: Call Lisa Chang at 971-227-8354 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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