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Hula school brings spirit of aloha to Gresham


Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe (The Gentle Breeze) opens its new studio at Division Street and 180th

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KA PA HULA MAKANI KOLONAHE - Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe (The Gentle Breeze) serves 75 students age 2 to 71, offering instruction in Hawaiian language, choreograpahy, dance, singing and chanting. The school is adding workshops, camps and Zumba classes.

One brings expression, the other brings discipline.

Together, they strive to perpetuate Hawaiian culture in East Multnomah County by teaching music, dance and language.

“We want to focus on the ways of aloha — of respect, family, discipline, unity and humility,” said Ka’aumoana Ahina Jr., cofounder of the Gresham-based hula school, Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe.

After operating out of Cascade Athletic Club in Mall 205 since October 2005, Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe officially moved to its new studio at Southeast Division Street and 180th Avenue on June 1.

Ahina and cofounder ‘Aukai La’amaikahiki will host a grand opening celebration from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at 18053 S.E. Division St., Gresham, complete with a ceremonial blessing, dance demonstrations and refreshments.

“This was a blessing — something we’ve been looking for a long time,” Ahina said of the new space, which is doubled in size. “When people walk through here, we want to provide a sense of warmth and comfort.”

In the past eight years, Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe has grown to about 75 students, ranging in age from 2 to 71.

Classes are broken into three sections: the beginning kids, or “keikis”; the adult women, or “aunties”; and the advanced group, or “papa lehua.”

The keikis and aunties dance 70 minutes twice a week, while the papa lehuas dance 3-1/2 hours twice a week.

About 60 percent of the students are from Gresham, with the rest coming from throughout the Portland area.

While about half of the students are Hawaiian, Ahina and La’amaikahiki said they welcome students from all backgrounds and experience levels.

“At first I was shy, but through hula and hula competitions, I have gained a lot more confidence,” said Ka’Ohulani Marquez, 11, a sixth-grader at Walt Morey Middle School and Ahina’s niece who has danced since age 3. “I have learned about my culture and where my family was from.”

Marquez is among the hula students who have participated in the Hapa Haole Hula Competition at the Hawaiian Festival Pacific Northwest in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park the past several years.

Kathy Allegri, a Gresham artist and business owner, always had a connection with Hawaiian culture but never took formal hula classes as a child.

Through Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe, she and other adult students have found a strong community and outlet.

“A lot of students come to hula Sundays and have this spiritual feeling,” La’amaikahiki said. “It’s like their church — something they don’t want to miss.”

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KA PA HULA MAKANI KOLONAHE - Ka'aumoana Ahina Jr. and 'Aukai La'amaikahiki are the founders of Ka Pa Hula Makani Kolonahe, a Gresham-based hula school that opened its new studio at Southeast Division Street and 180th Avenue in Gresham on June 1.

Ahina and La’amaikahiki met in Oahu in before college. Ahina had grown up around dance, while La’amaikahiki was fluent in Hawaiian.

At the University of Hawaii in Hilo, they discovered a shared passion for Hawaiian culture and hula through their courses.

While serving in the U.S. Army, La’amaikahiki was deployed to Iraq in 2004. During his deployment, Ahina, a 1998 Reynolds High School graduate, returned to his family in the Gresham area and worked as a hairdresser.

The two planned to move back to Hawaii in summer 2006, but upon La’amaikahiki’s return from the Army in September 2005, they founded the hula school.

“We don’t get homesick because this is home now,” La’amaikahiki said. “We return home regularly and we bring home here.”

Added Ahina: “If we don’t take on that responsibility, if we don’t go home (to Hawaii) to touch the ground, soak up the sun and see the beauty of what we’re dancing and singing about, we lose the essence of our culture.”

With an expanded space, Ahina and La’amaikahiki look forward to offering additional workshops and classes.

Already, they’ve developed the summer Move-N-Groove Camps with Ahina’s sister, Haley Ahina, and hosted a lei-making workshop. The school also will add Zumba classes to its offerings.

“We give credit to hula instructors who teach on their own,” Ahina said. “When you’re alone, you do everything. We’re so fortunate to be partnered at this school.”