Lyn-Del Laua’e Pedersen, owner and director of Aloha Hula Studio, shares the Polynesian culture through teaching Hula and Ori Tahiti at her Granada Hills studio. Following in the footsteps of her ohana, she started dancing at the age of 5, and became a professional dance with 45 years of experience. Today, she gives us a glimpse of her story: how she started teaching hula in the San Fernando Valley, favorite moments, and navigating through the challenge of this pandemic.
What motivated you to open a hula dance studio in the San Fernando Valley?
It was actually my Aunty Ilima Lei Russel and Uncle Charlie Kiaha who encouraged me to start teaching as they saw a need and interest out here in the San Fernando Valley. It was very important to my Aunty Ilima that I help to perpetuate and share our family culture and so she gave me that “kuleana” (responsibility) . Back in 2006, I started teaching out of my home and in 2007, I opened my dance studio in Granada Hills where I teach with my sons Taimane and Kaikea. They now share in this responsibility.
What challenges did you encounter when you first opened your school?
One of our main challenges would be how some people come with an idea in their head of what they “think it is”. It is my responsibility to help them understand that this is about a culture and not just about putting on a pretty costume and shaking your hips. Most of the time, they love learning about the culture and how it goes hand in hand with dancing. If they are here for the wrong reason, we try to encourage them to maybe move on to something else.
In more than a decade of being teaching hula at your studio, what has been the best and most memorable performance/s?
There are so many! Each Ho’ike (recital) over the years has been special–even our first few that we did at school auditoriums. But the one that stands out as my most memorable would be the year we did our first BIG stage performance at the Ford Amphitheatre in 2012. We have done bigger venues than the Ford since then but there has been nothing to top the atmosphere and the beauty of performing on that outdoor stage. We always say we want to do the Ford one more time. Everything about that particular night was magical!
How does the Polynesian culture resonate with today’s youth as seen in your students?
We have students who are Polynesian as well as students from many differnt cultures. I try to teach as I was taught , to be respectful, and that to be good at something requires commitment and disipline. I have found that most of our students are willing to put in that commitment and discipline. They are very respectful and excited to be a part of preserving and perpetuating the Polynesian Culture.
With the pandemic, what challenges have you encountered with teaching online vs. in person?
For teaching, when the students are not there in studio, I can not really see if they are doing it correctly. It is hard to make necessary corrections. So, the technique can suffer. Online learning for some is harder to learn as it is not the same as having personal interaction as well as the “mana” energy of their hula sisters/brothers next to them to encourage, inspire and support. I lost about half of my students after we went online. The other half were happy that we continued classes on line as it really helped them get through this time. For the adults, it was easier than it was for the children.
What plans do you have for the studio with everything starting to re-open?
We have a pretty big wait list of new students who are interested. I will be starting new classes in June. I am happy to say that most of the students who took a break are very excited to come back. I anticipate we will be very busy making up for lost time. Normally, during the summer months, we are participating in various festivals. We know it will be a slow summer as things start to open back up but we will start to prepare for upcoming opportunities to perform. We will continue to “Imua” to move forward , to encourage each other to grow into a deeper appreciation of all Polynesian cultures.