SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- For the Polynesian culture, the hula dance is a form of communication that dates back ages, and is kept alive today through a group of dedicated performers excited to share it with others.
One such performer is Senior Airman Tiffany Ellison, a 436th Supply Chain Operations Squadron stock control technician, who recently performed several forms of hula dance at a diversity festival held for the base.
Born and raised on the island of Guam, Ellison began dancing in middle school eventually performed professionally.
Upon being stationed here, she joined the “808 Ohana of the Midwest” dance group as well as the installation’s Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Committee. It was here that she learned to perform the Hawaiian forms of the hula, practicing about twice a week.
Hula originated in Hawaii and has two styles: Kahiko, or ancient Hula, was composed prior to 1894 and is usually accompanied by chanting and more firm motions. The Auana, which is a modern with graceful motions and is usually accompanied by musicians using stringed instruments.
Ellison said that when she was first learning about Hula, she did not quite understand the spiritual aspects of the dance. Her first hula teacher, or kumu hula, taught her that “it’s something that is sacred and learning it is much like learning their lineage.”
The last reigning Hawaiian king, David Kalakaua, said that the “hula is the language of the heart … therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.” Kalakaua brought backed the previously banned dance and became known as "Merrie Monarch" With that, the event most attached to hula is named after him.
“I’ve actually researched about it and watched videos of the Merrie Monarch, also known as the Olympics of Hula, and was fascinated at how soulful they danced both styles of Hula,” said Ellison. “It’s not just about dancing with hand and feet movements, but about the story being told with motion.
“I’ve learned that keeping these Polynesian dances alive today is important because the Polynesians value their culture and traditions. Although technology is taking over, most of the islander fore-fathers and mothers would like to teach their children where they come from, and how they migrated, and what was unique about their culture. I always feel a connection to my heritage when performing any Polynesian dance. I’ve danced for almost 13 years. In meeting these wonderful islanders through dance, it brings me back to Guam.”
Another member of the dance ensemble is Tech Sgt. Audrey Palacios, a 932nd Logistics Readiness Flight supply NCO in charge, who met Ellison in the summer of 2018.
“She learns quickly, works hard, and strives to have things done the right way,” said Palacios. “She takes pride in everything she does, especially when performing Polynesian dances. Our dance moves are vigorous and strenuous, but she performs them with grace and poise. She is a positive influence to our group, and we are very fortunate to have her.”
Ellison added, that “we were honored to dance for the Diversity Day festival and excited to share our Polynesian show with everyone. Our group chooses to perform in every opportunity granted and wishes to educate and promote awareness of our culture and traditions. Also, we just love to dance.”