This website is part of the USC Annenberg Digital Archives. Read More


Watch the "Maui Girlz" perform on TV and watch a dance practice

Story:Reclaiming the Past

Story:Murder, or Self Defense?

email iconE-mail this story

printericonPrinter friendly version





"After 9-11, fewer Americans travel overseas, and they've
started to discover cultural richness at home."

     It is not surprising then that many halau often have these two distinctive units—the cultural and the entertainment focused branches, according to Halualani, who has been teaching at San Jose State University since 1998. “When it comes to the perpetuation of culture, [halau and other cultural dance groups] are honed in on that, but with an entertainment branch [they can perform at other types of events],” she said.

     Pi’ilani Paraoan, founder of the Maui Girlz Polynesian Dance Troupe, said this year, the troupe received 300 requests to perform, up from four just four years ago.
     “The change I’ve seen in the last four years is that we are still doing birthday parties, but instead of doing equal parts of every other type of party, we are now doing about 45 percent birthdays, 45 percent weddings and 10 percent of everything else,” she said. “Weddings have really come up, which tells me that more people are considering the magic and romance of the Hawaiian and other Polynesian islands.”
     Increasingly, the Maui Girlz is also receiving more inquiries and show requests from large corporations like Home Depot and Pepsi.  These shows even occasionally warrant travel to other states—and possibly overseas; one Chinese company recently inquired about the cost of hiring five dancers for a three-month gig later this year.

     Back in the U.S., the surge in business may simply stem from more Americans staying at home because of the high cost of travel or the reluctance to fly after 9/11.

     “Many Americans want to make an escape, and Hawaii is the paradise of the U.S. So if people can’t afford to go there, they want to bring the islands to them.  And along with that comes the fun and excitement of Tiki culture and novelties,” said Paraoan. “Americans will always want to have a unique escape, and you can get a taste of many islands from the groups that represent Hawaii [and other islands] in their shows.”

     As long as these things continue to motivate and appeal to people, it seems that Polynesian dance and the numerous groups, entertainment troupes and clubs that do it will only continue to live on and, perhaps, become permanently imbedded in mainstream life. 

     Last October the Maui Girlz received a phone call from the Tom Joyner Show in Hollywood, a late night variety show that also features comedic skits and competitions between performers for a grand prize of plane tickets anywhere around the continental United States.

     The Maui Girlz were asked to compete, with the studio providing a 60-second music track with hip hop beats and “It’s your birthday” lyrics.  The group agreed, and the show was featured on late night television—with the dancers winning first place.


previous 1 | 2 | 3 |